Purpose, Content & Structure of Memos

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 0:28 Purpose & Content
  • 1:09 Structure
  • 3:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

One of the most prevalent internal business documents produced by an organization is the memo. In this lesson, you'll examine the purpose of a memo, its typical content and its structure. A short quiz follows.


Percy works for a game design studio in Silicon Valley. He's the team leader for a new game being developed, and his manager has asked Percy to write her a weekly memo on team's progress. A memo is a short, informal document that is used for internal communication within an organization. They are usually written in an informal tone, as the document is for internal consumption among colleagues.

Purpose & Content

Memos are pretty flexible documents and can be used for many different purposes. Percy's memo, for example, is being written to update his supervisor on the status and progress of the game his team is developing. Memos can also serve as:

  • Documentation or a record, such as for documenting an accident at work or recording the reason for terminating an employee
  • Confirmation regarding decisions or the date and time of future events
  • Status and progress reports
  • Dissemination of rules and procedures
  • Instructions or directives, such as delegation of tasks and responsibilities
  • A method to inquire about an organizational procedure, event, or other organizational issue
  • A preface to a formal report


While a memo is a very flexible form of communication, it does have a recognizable structure that Percy will use. Percy will include a heading section, which includes a separate line displaying the date of the memo (the date line), who the memo is being sent to (known as the 'to' line), who the sender is (known as the 'from' line), and the subject of the memo (known as the subject line).

After composing the heading of the memo, Percy will provide a brief introduction before getting into the heart of the discussion. Most memos will require just one or two sentences telling the reader what the topic is and why you are writing about it. For example, Percy's memo will have one sentence telling his supervisor that the memo is the weekly update on the project requested by the supervisor.

Percy then moves on to the heart of the memo, which is the discussion. The discussion is where the content of the memo is developed. Percy, for example, will discuss where the team is in development of the game, whether the team is on schedule and any current problems or foreseeable problems that have caused, or may cause, a delay. It is important to note that traditional paragraphs are not usually the most effective way to communicate your content in memos. Instead, it's often more effective to use lists, headings, boldface or italics, and even graphics to emphasize the key content because your reader may not have the time to read through dense text to get to your major points.

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