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Memo writing basics contain the same sensible, practical rules that apply to all levels of the corporation, from the secretary to the CEO. Used appropriately, the memo is a powerful tool. Used incorrectly, a poor memo has contributed to the demise of more than one promising career.

1. Put your message first! Present the gist and most important part of your memo in the opening paragraph. Don’t make the reader wonder about the subject matter! An easy way of doing this is to present your conclusion first, and then provide the subject matter that works up to the conclusion. For instance, if you are announcing that there will be no more overtime in Department ABC, make that your introductory statement! The rest of the memo can provide the information needed for the employees to adjust to their new work schedule.
2. Be specific about your needs. You have just informed your employees that there will be no more overtime allowed. Tell them how you expect them to get their jobs done in forty hours! Give them specific examples and outlines.
3. Don’t be fancy. Don’t overuse words and sound pompous. Simplicity puts yourself on a one to one level with your reader.
4. Clip your sentences. Brevity is the key. The longer the sentences, the more chances you have of losing the reader, or tripping up on your words.
5. Clip the memo. Keep it to one page or less if possible. If you keep memos to one page or less, people have less of a problem reading them and are inclined to take action on your request!
6. Don’t confuse messages. Be consistent. If the topic of the memo is “No More Overtime”, do not include a clause stating that in certain cases there will be overtime. Put that topic on a separate memo.
7. Proofread, and proofread again. Nothing degrades your point or your authority more than a typo or bad grammar.
8. Observe the chain of command. Gain the trust and respect of your peers by going through the proper channels. Don’t use the “cc” list as a tattler.
9. Alphabetize your “cc” list. Always alphabetize the cc list, as in the following example:
John Doe, Director of Marketing
Betty Find, Director of Sales
Harry Ryan, Executive Vice President
Make your cc’s in alphabetical order, not “pecking” order.
10. End on a positive note. Even if the subject matter of the memo isn’t positive, ending it on a positive note will enhance your credibility and respect among your peers. Say that there will be no more overtime, but that you are sure that “a great team like ours will work around it”.

Create a template reflecting the basic rules listed above to assist you in producing effective, timesaving and successful memos and improve your credibility among your peers.