Memos, a shortened word for memorandum/memoranda (referring to “remembering”), are one of the most useful and versatile document forms used in professional settings.  Memos are “in house” documents sent within an organization to provide or request information, outline policies, present short reports, and propose ideas.  They may be used to update a team on activities for a given project, or to inform a specific group within a company of an event, action, or observance. While they are often used to inform, they can also be persuasive documents.  Memos are often written from a one-to-many perspective (like mass communication), broadcasting a message to an audience, rather than a one-to-one, interpersonal communication. A company or institution may have its own style or template that is used for memos.

Memo Format

Here’s an example of a standard memo format:

"Sun State University" logo

Opening lines aligned; Specific Subject LineTO:                       Online Course Supervisors

FROM:                  Marion Jeffries, Associate Dean

SUBJECT:             Course Analytics

DATE:                    April 10, 20XX

I will be scheduling meetings with each of you in the next month, to review the analytics for the online courses under your supervision.

1st paragraph provides focus; 2nd paragraph lists details clearly; Ample margins; clear layoutTo prepare for this meeting, please:

  • Review the data for your courses
  • Identify and list potential student trouble spots in courses, based on student performance data
  • Compare outcomes among sections and identify potential issues
  • List and prioritize the most important updates and revisions to be scheduled for upcoming semesters

Please consult my Outlook calendar from April 11 – May 11, 20XX, to schedule an hour-long appointment with me, which you can do via a meeting invitation.  Thank you.Last paragraph indicates action to be taken

Header Block

The header block appears at the top left side of your memo, directly underneath the company’s logo, if you’re using letterhead.  If you’re not using letterhead, you may want to use the word MEMO in capitalized letters at the top, either centered or at the left-hand margin.  The header block contains detailed information on the recipient, sender, and purpose.  It always includes the following lines:

TO:             use the recipient’s full name (depending on the context, also add the recipient’s position or title)
FROM:       include your full name (and position or title, again depending on the context)
DATE:        write out the date (e.g., September 12, 20XX)
SUBJECT:  include a brief, specific phrase that concisely describes the main content of the memo
CC:             optional line if needed (depending on the context)

Note the layout of the header block information, with all lines starting on the left-hand margin, capital letters for the headings, and all information after the colons aligned. Some formats double space the lines of the header block, and some single space the lines. Be sure to comply with your organization’s or group’s format.


The length of a memo can range from a few short sentences to a multi-page report that includes figures, tables, and appendices.  Whatever the length, there is a straightforward organizational principal you should follow.  Organize the content of your memo so that it answers the following questions for the reader:

  1. Opening:  Do I have to read this?  Why do I have to read this?
  2. Details:  What do I need to know?
  3. Closing:  What am I expected to do now?

Memos are generally very direct and concise.  There is no need to start with general introductions before getting to your point. Your readers are colleagues within the same organization, and are likely familiar with the context in which you are writing.  The opening sentences of the memo’s message should make it clear to the reader whether they have to read this entire memo and why (if the memo is informing me about an elevator that’s out of service in a building I never enter, then I don’t really have to read any further).

The middle section of the message should give all of the information needed to adequately inform the readers and fulfill the purpose of the memo. Start with the most general information, and then add the more specific facts and details. Make sure there is enough detail to support your purpose, but don’t overwhelm your readers with unnecessary details or information that is already well known to them. Note that if the middle section of the memo body is relatively lengthy (over 3-4 paragraphs), you may want to use headings or break up the information in other ways so that the format supports ease of reading and understanding, as headings will help busy readers who are skimming the document to focus on main ideas and information.

The final part of the message indicates what, if any, action is required or requested of the readers.  If you are asking your readers to do something, be as courteous as possible, and try to indicate how this action will also benefit them.

Here’s another sample memo:[1]

TO:            All Employees
FROM:      Larry Ogawa, IT Manager, The Widget Research Company
DATE:       June 15, 20XX
SUBJECT: New photocopier installations – July 7


On July 7, new photocopiers will be installed in the copy room on each floor.  The installation will take place from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.  During this time, printing, scanning, and photocopying will not be available.

The old photocopiers will be disconnected from the network on the morning of July 7.  Technicians will be on site to simultaneously install the new machines on each floor to minimize printing downtime.

The new photocopiers have all of the same functionality as the ones they will be replacing but will be faster and quieter. Training sessions will be organized so all employees can learn how to use the new machines. More details about these training sessions will be shared at the end of this month.

Please direct any questions or concerns to me.  Thank you.

The samples on this page are memos whose purpose is to inform.  Remember that memos can also persuade and analyze information in addition to informing. Examples of different types of memos can be viewed in the following attachments.

Email or Printed Memo?

The information about memos on this page sounds a lot like the information on the page about emails. Like memos, emails use a header block (which is automated), get to the point of the communication directly and succinctly, and then close with a suggested action or acknowledgement.  So why learn about printed memos?

According to Ryan Ayers, writing online for HPPY, The HR & Employment Engagement Community, “one of the main reasons memos still have a place in the office is because they get attention. They’re formal, professional, and support more formatting styles. For messages that need to have a lasting impact, a physical memo cuts through the email noise and gets attention. It doesn’t get lost in a cluttered inbox (though it can get lost in a cluttered desk). Memos are also a good option for a news board, since they can be pinned up for everyone to see.”[2]

As a member of an organization or group, you’ll need to determine the best medium for your communication.  Memos are useful for messages that are relatively important or formal, a bit lengthier than a standard email, and/or information that your audience may need to print and keep in hard copy.  Know that you can always attach a memo to a brief email, if that makes sense given your communication purpose, audience, and context.


The following video reviews the characteristics of a well-written memo and offers information about how to write one.

[1] Adapted from Sample memo, Melissa Ashman, 2018, CC-BY-NC 4.0 international license

[2] Ryan Ayers, Are Memos Relevant Anymore?, HPPY website,