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.

First things first: a memo always opens with the heading, which states the recipient (whether an individual or a large group of people), the sender, the date, and the subject line. When written correctly, the memo header provides a clear context of the document’s content.

The opening statement briefly captures the purpose of the memo. It gives an overview of what the rest of the document will be about, highlighting a specific issue, task, or event before divulging any more details. Essentially, the readers must immediately get the most important information when reading the opening statement.

Simply put, the context details the background of the event, assignment, or problem addressed in the opening statement. Whether it’s because of a company restructuring, a new budget, or some procedural changes, this section provides the necessary information to help readers gain a clear understanding of the topic. This may include:

  • How the problem was discovered
  • Background information
  • Supporting evidence
  • Relevant timings or dates

Depending on the memo’s purpose, the task breaks down the next steps that need to be completed for the recipients. Basically, this section informs them:

  • The changes that will be or have already been made related to the memo’s topic
  • The recommended actions they should take
  • The deadline they need to adhere to

Some memos don’t require action items. If that’s the case, this portion can be left out.

The discussion establishes supporting details for the memo’s recommended next steps. It lays down necessary information and research that back up the action plan, with information organized from strongest to weakest. That means starting with key findings and hard-hitting facts before moving on to smaller details. Ultimately, this section should persuade the recipients to follow the specific actions suggested in the document.

Lastly, the closing statement provides the opportunity to end the memo on a courteous note. This section reiterates the recommended actions and identifies any specific contacts and how to reach them if the recipients have questions or concerns. It’s also a space to thank them for their time and cooperation.

A summary is included right before the closing statement if the memo ends up taking more than one page. This makes it easier for recipients to digest the information they just read, highlighting key points and recommended actions.

If needed, the memo should include attachments as additional data or references to substantiate its message. These can be graphs(opens in a new tab or window), lists, tables, etc., found below the closing statement.


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.

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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.

Sending a request memo is ideal when you want to ask recipients to take a specific action. For instance, you need employees to fill out and submit a specific form, or you need their cooperation during an office remodeling. This type of memo usually provides context on the task to justify the request and convince readers to comply.

A report memo is a document you send within your company or organization when you need to update recipients on the state of a specific task. For example, your team’s project has successfully moved to the next phase. Report memos often include a timeline and summation of the task in the document to communicate information more effectively.

Writing a confirmation memo is a good way to get a verbal agreement in writing. For example, you agreed to take on more work if the manager provided you with three additional staff members. Confirmation memos typically highlight the major points verbally agreed upon between two or more parties and encourage feedback on any unclear or misunderstood details.

When you’re looking for efficient solutions to a specific problem, sending a suggestion memo can help. For instance, you want to open a group discussion on a workplace issue. Or, you need to conduct a brainstorming session for a brand campaign. This memo type aims to embolden creative thinking and generate out-of-the-box ideas from the recipients.


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

Before you even start writing, you should know the end goal you want to accomplish with your memo. Do you want to inform a specific set of recipients about a certain topic? Or get some fresh ideas to solve a problem? Determining the purpose of your memo makes it easy to figure out which type to send and, subsequently, what tone to use. Once you have the information, access Canva on any device and choose a memo template to get started quickly.

When writing your heading, always define who the memo is for, who sent it, when it was written, and what it’s about using this general format:

To:

From:

Date:

Subject:

For the subject line, it’s best to be precise and specific. You should write it with the aim of grabbing attention and giving a quick idea of what the document is about. For example, “Subject: Quarterly Company Get-Together: Date and Details.”

Because the opening statement provides the purpose of your memo, you should write it as a declarative sentence. Start with “I am writing to inform you” or “I am requesting assistance on” at the beginning of this section. Only state the most crucial information in one to three sentences — that means holding out on further details or context for now.

With your opening statement out of the way, you now have the space to dive more into the topic, supply additional information, and lay down an action plan. Don’t spare any details, but ensure they’re clear and relevant to your memo’s purpose. You may use AI-powered writing assistants like Magic Write(opens in a new tab or window) to help you outline the document. This way, you can focus more on tweaking the content to your preference. Consider using subheadings and bulleted lists to emphasize key points and help readers retain important information.

After writing down all the significant details you need to share, it’s time to wrap up your memo. You may reiterate the recommended action you want the recipients to take. If you expect them to have questions or concerns, direct them to any specific contacts who can provide those answers. Don’t forget to include a closing statement that shows your gratitude for the readers’ time and cooperation.

If needed, feel free to include necessary attachments to back up your memo. You can benefit from using a visual document creator like Canva Docs(opens in a new tab or window) since it has data visualization tools and drag-and-drop features to supplement your content with graphs, tables, or images. Don’t forget to write a note about what you’ve attached in this format: “Attached: (name of attachment), (relevant date).”

After you’re done writing, make sure to review and proofread it so it’s as concise and clear as possible. Keep an eye out for any spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors you might have missed. Once you’re satisfied, you can start customizing your memo template to make it a stunning visual doc that engages the readers. Want feedback from a colleague? With Canva, you can share access to your work, whether you’re writing on Docs or customizing a Canva design.


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.


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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.

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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.


Memo FAQs

A memo, short for memorandum, comes from the Latin word memorandus, meaning “to be remembered; a record of something for future reference or consideration.” While the term memorandum started to be used in the 1880s, it really didn’t become common until the 1920s.

Yes, absolutely. One of the types of memos that companies often use is a request memo. This document asks recipients to take a specific action, often providing justification for the request and adopting a persuasive tone to convince the audience to comply.

As a versatile form of communication, a memo has a broad range of purposes, including but not limited to:

  • Broadcasting internal changes
  • Disseminating news
  • Announcing an upcoming event
  • Addressing a problem
  • Updating community safety guidelines
  • Sharing project updates
  • Making a request

A memo is generally concise and direct to the point. Depending on its purpose, a memo’s length should only take up one or two pages. If your memo is running longer than a page, reexamine the document to see if the scope is becoming too broad, and rework if necessary.


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