Following the Writing Process for Memos

Following the Writing Process for Memos
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  • 0:01 Why Bother With a Memo?
  • 0:59 Prewriting
  • 1:48 Writing
  • 2:53 Editing
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Writing memos may not be as common as it was before e-mail, but a memo is still the best way to provide formal communication throughout the office. In this lesson, we learn to follow the writing process for memos.

Why Bother with a Memo?

In an era of voicemails, text messages, and office instant messages, why even bother with a memo? After all, word that the break room coffee machine is out of everything but decaf will get around on those channels of communication much faster than any simple piece of paper. However, offices often have information that is simply more important than the fact that someone needs to get more French roast coffee.

Whether it is a change in formatting of documents, an updated relationship with a client, or a change in staffing, memos permit individuals to quickly get information dispersed throughout the office. All of this is done without unproductive meetings that tend to take people away from their work.

In this lesson, we'll walk through the writing process for a memo. We'll start by defining our purpose, then move on to actually writing it before putting last minute touches on it before distribution.


Before you start writing the memo, stop for a minute. Think about the purpose of what you're about to write. Is a memo really necessary? If, for example, you were just asking your boss if you could leave half an hour early on Friday, then you probably don't need to use a formal memo. However, other policies do require such a memo.

Imagine you were a boss, and one too many people had asked to be off on too many Fridays. Obviously, you need to clamp down on that sort of thing, but to just start saying no to people who ask may cause you to look arbitrary. Even if someone waits around to listen to your reasoning, they aren't really going to absorb too much of it. Instead, a memo lets you squarely set out the reasons for the change, the change itself, and what individuals can do to support the change.


See how that neatly broke down into three clear steps? That's what you should do when writing a memo. People expect there to be a clear cut reasoning for the memo and expect for it to follow a certain format.

At the beginning, describe the reasoning for the guideline or relationship that is about to be changed. It could be that too many people are taking off on Fridays, or that someone has retired, and, as such, their role needs to be filled.

Then, include text that addresses the solution to the problem. It could be that people may only ask for one Friday afternoon off a quarter or that a search is underway to find someone to join the company as the retiree's replacement.

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