13 minutesBy Canva Team

Writing a memo: How-tos, templates, and tips

Whether you’re broadcasting an internal change or announcing a new company policy, learn how to relay vital information effectively. Use Canva tips and professionally-made templates to write a memo.
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What is a memo?

A memo, also known as a memorandum, is a written document used for internal communications within a business or organization. It’s typically sent out to entire teams or departments, conveying either one of two points:

  • Information about new policies, internal changes, or project updates; or
  • A request to take a specific action, like attending a seminar or meeting a deadline.

Since memos serve as a quick way to notify a group of people about a specific topic, they’re written in a concise and easy-to-digest format. Then, they’re sent either electronically or printed as a physical handout. Although they’ve declined in use following the introduction of emails, memos are still a great way to streamline communication within the workplace.

Example of an official memo with minimal design

Example of an official memo with minimal design.

Memorandum in the context of the law

Memos in the context of the law work differently than those used in everyday business practices. Here, they’re defined as documents that record the terms of a transaction or agreement. Two examples you might’ve heard before are the memorandum of agreement (MOA) and the memorandum of understanding (MOU).

By comparison, an MOA outlines an agreed objective between two parties, while an MOU details the terms of an agreement between two or more parties to ensure that they’re all on the same page. Both documents can be enforceable by law depending on the specific intent and language of the agreement.

What to include in a memo?

Memos are divided into various parts to organize information and make it easier for the recipient to read. Regardless of what a memo is about, it should include the following:

Example of a memo about an updated remote work policy

Example of a memo about an updated remote work policy.

What are the types of a memo?

Some of the different types of memos used in the workplace are: request, report, confirmation, and suggestion memos. They often vary in length and format, with some needing more information than others. Find out which memo type you should write depending on a particular situation.

Make your memo on brand
Whether you’re writing a request memo or sending a report memo, ensure that it stays on brand. With Canva Pro, access Brand Kit and apply your brand guidelines to your memo template.
Find the perfect template for the type of memo you plan to write

Find the perfect template for the type of memo you plan to write.

What tone to use in a memo?

Although memos are usually written professionally, you can adopt a different tone based on the purpose or recipients of the document to express your message clearly and effectively.

  • Positive: Use a positive tone when writing a memo that’s meant to announce a new development or an upcoming company event. With this tone, you’re likely to get the recipients more interested in what you have to say.
  • Persuasive: A persuasive tone is ideal when you’re sending a memo asking recipients to do something specific, like compiling a report or staying out of the office for a few days. Using this tone can convince them to follow your recommended actions without any vehement reactions.
  • Formal: Adopting a formal tone in your memo is best when you’re relaying information for a specific audience, such as internal stakeholders, to convey your professionalism. It’s also suitable for addressing a serious issue so that you can emphasize its gravity.

As always, consider how your recipients could interpret your memo’s tone and use non-discriminatory language to foster respect in the workplace.

Why send a memo?

At its core, a memo provides a group of people with important information in a brief and straightforward format. While this may be similar to other forms of communication, a memo tends to be more official and professional. As such, readers are more likely to take the message seriously.

Share access to your memo design with anyone

Share access to your memo design with anyone.

With a memo, you can:

  • Bring urgent attention to an issue: Because memos convey a sense of importance, they gain the immediate attention of the recipients. Naturally, it’s easier to disseminate news, address problems, broadcast internal changes, or request cooperation or feedback.
  • Keep everyone on the same page: A memo provides a centralized space within the workplace to review essential company details. Plus, everyone receives the same message at the same time, making it easy to promote clarity or establish a deadline.
  • Enjoy versatility: Memos have a broad range of purposes, so you can structure them in a way that perfectly accommodates the message you want to share. Depending on the situation, you can also make your memo exciting or persuasive by using the appropriate tone and language.

Memo vs. email

Between the two, a memo is more formal in language and format than an email. It also tackles a specific topic with a wide-scale relevance, meaning everyone who receives it is impacted, while an email includes carbon copy (cc) and blind carbon copy (bcc) components, so there are recipients who are informed but otherwise not involved in the topic.

Memo vs. letter

Whereas a memo is typically used for internal communication, a letter is used to communicate with external parties, such as customers, suppliers, clients, or the public. Because of this, it adopts a more formal tone to address those outside of the company. Additionally, memos are meant for brief and concise messages, while letters communicate longer missives on a certain subject.

Tag teammates in comments while writing your memo on Canva Docs.

Memo vs. press release

While they’re both written documents, a memo and a press release differ greatly in their target audience. The former is sent to a specific group of people within a business or an organization to disseminate information, whereas the latter is prepared for the media or press to promote positive feelings on a new development or event.

Memo vs. circular

When comparing a memo with a circular, it’s crucial to consider the subject matter and the audience. Memos address only one topic and are sent to a certain department or team within the company. Circulars, on the other hand, tackle multiple subjects and are intended for mass distribution — the entire workforce, for example.

Memo vs. meeting minutes

Memos often provide urgent information or call-to-action on a particular subject, while meeting minutes contain notes from a meeting, including what was discussed, who was in attendance, and what was decided. In some instances, a memo may include minutes in its necessary attachments to serve as additional information or supporting evidence.

How to write a memo effectively

Whatever the purpose of your memo may be, it should get your point across clearly and effectively. Keep it brief and direct, avoiding unnecessary details that may detract from the topic. Here, learn how to write an effective memo in seven easy steps.

How to write a memo effectively

Get inspired with memo templates

Get off to a good start with a ready-made memo template that’s easy to personalize. Canva has different designs for different situations, so you can effectively communicate vital information no matter what. Just pick any layout and tweak elements to match the tone and content of your memo.

All you need in a memo maker

  • Great on any device

    Great on any device

    With responsive Docs, create, view, and edit your doc on any device. Perfect for when you're on the go.

  • Visual library for visual Docs

    Visual library for visual Docs

    Seamlessly add visuals like graphs, tables, images, videos, graphics, and more, all available within your doc.

  • Collaborate in real-time

    Collaborate in real-time

    Work with teams and build on ideas with comments and emoji reactions. Keep sync sessions on track with a timer.

  • Magic Write your first draft, fast

    Magic Write your first draft, fast

    Beat writer's block and skip ahead to your first draft with a single text prompt on Magic Write.

  • Share your work effortlessly

    Share your work effortlessly

    Share a link to your doc and control your team’s access. Track activity, views, and comments via Insights (Pro).

  • Turn Docs to Decks

    Turn Docs to Decks

    Instantly convert your document to a fully customizable Canva presentation with Docs to Decks.

Best practices for writing a memo

Take note of these best practices when writing a memo to ensure effective communication within your workplace.

Make your formatting consistent

Make your memo easy to read by maintaining the same font and line spacing throughout the document. No need to indent paragraphs; instead, skip a one line space between them to make them more digestible. Use headings, bullet points, bold text, and other formatting features to help the recipients pinpoint certain information.

Nowadays, memos are best written on an online word editor that allows you to supercharge your documents with stunning visual aids. Canva Docs combines word processing features with easy-to-use customization tools on one platform, so writing, formatting, and designing memos are a breeze.

Bullets and numbered lists
Easily create bullet lists by clicking the Bullet icon on the text toolbar. For numbered lists, click the Bullet icon twice.
Use formatting elements to highlight key information in your memo

Use formatting elements to highlight key information in your memo.

Consider your audience

Be mindful of your audience when writing a memo. One department may not be familiar with the technical jargon that’s commonly used in another department. As such, make sure that you use terms that everyone will understand. If not, take some time to explain them. Same with acronyms and abbreviations — it's better to spell them out. And no matter how familiar you are with the recipients, don’t use emojis or texting language in your document.

Stay clear on the topic

When it comes to writing a memo, getting to the point quickly is the goal. The recipients should immediately understand why they have to read your document. So if you’re writing about the observance of a holiday, for example, always include the name and the date when it’s observed in your memo’s subject line and opening statement. Only focus on this topic, and make sure your additional information and necessary attachments support it as well.

Example of a memo with a direct and clear message

Example of a memo with a direct and clear message.

Be objective in your message

Always stick to the facts when constructing a memo. That means refraining from personal bias and maintaining objectivity. Keep in mind that memos often communicate official business items, and by sending them, you’re speaking for the company to a large audience, so you’ll want to convey professionalism through writing at all times.

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Communicate essential information with memos

Easily get your point across and keep entire teams on the same page with an effective memo. Choose from our collection of ready-made and customizable templates to kickstart your writing process.
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