To:       Students of BU113 Critical Thinking and Communication in Business

From:    Prof. Bauer-Ramazani


Date:     month day, year

Re:       Memo Form and Content--Business Writing

Create a Memo in Word by clicking File > New > Templates on Office Online > Memos (select a style--Professional, Contemporary, Elegant, etc.) or compose your own, following the same format. Memos are used to provide a summary of important information and suggest actions that should be taken.  Although memos can be ten pages or more, one- to two-page memos are more common and are more likely to accomplish the writer’s purpose.  Memos have a heading for each section and are written in paragraph form with no indentations.  All memos are typed single space with double spaces between paragraphs.  They often include bulleted lists to offset important items. 

Memo Format/Appearance

A memo has five headings at the top of the first page: 1. Company name, usually contained in the letterhead; 2. The word “To” followed by a colon indicating the recipient of this memo.  In the To: line, use the reader’s full name with any professional title, such as Dr., but without the complimentary titles of Mr., Ms., Mrs., Miss; 3. The word “From” followed by a colon indicating the sender; 4. The word “Date” and a colon; 5. The word “Subject” (or Re: ) followed by a colon introducing the topic of the memo.  State the subject in a few words but make sure it communicates the point of the memo.


A memo is written as continuous text that is organized into paragraphs. Each paragraph has a heading (see the example here). A memo has no indentations; it is single-spaced, with double spaces between heading and paragraph and among paragraphs.  Memos begin with a 2-3 line introductory paragraph, summarizing the purpose of the memo and the major outcome and end with a brief concluding paragraph, which may summarize the findings, suggest a course of action, or make other recommendations.


Each section of the memo should follow the American organizational pattern of general-to-specific in content, beginning with a topic sentence, followed by supporting sentences, and ending with a concluding sentence. Supporting information in the form of explanations, statistics, facts, examples, and/or reasons constitute the heart of the memo. Additionally, supporting information may be provided in the form of tables, graphs, or short, bulleted lists.

Additional considerations: A memo

  • Uses formal language.  Instead of contractions (e.g. can’t or didn’t), use the long forms (cannot).  Instead of phrasal verbs (e.g. show up), use non-phrasal verbs (appear, arrive). Avoid you when generalizing (specify the group of people you are referencing, e.g. customers); avoid big (substitute major, large), thing (identify the “thing” by name), do, make, get (specify the action verb). 

  • Is clear and concise; uses simple sentences/language; clear writing demonstrates clear thinking.

  • Uses correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization; good content is often hurt by poor grammar, e.g. run-on sentences, fragments, dangling pronouns (e.g. the company > they), dangling participles, etc.  Always use the spell-checker but proof-read the document yourself as spell-checkers will not catch problems like then vs. than, their vs. there, form vs. from, etc. 

  • Includes a list of sources (called References) in the attachments.  You should follow APA citation guidelines for listing articles, web documents, etc. (see Citation of Resources).

  • Avoids using be at all cost, especially in conjunction with there is and there are.  Substitute active verbs.

EXAMPLE 1: The oil and gas industry is one of the top-ranked industries.  > Oil and gas ranks among the top industries.
EXAMPLE 2: There are five industries in the group of industry leaders: . . .
> Five industries count (or rank) among the leaders: . . .

  • Avoids using the passive voice.  Use active voice instead.  Express who is doing what to whom.
    Passive Voice: Computers are customized by  Dell Corporation according to customer specifications.

    Active Voice: 
    Dell Corporation customizes computers according to customer specifications.

© Christine Bauer-Ramazani   This page was last updated: March 6, 2012