Writing an Effective Memo Report

To:                 FSB Students
From:             Howe Writing Initiative
Date:              March 19, 2013
Subject:          Memo Report Conventions

Although major business projects often involve long and finely detailed reports, shorter projects, small events, and progress updates (among other things) often use a shorter reporting style. This document overviews memo reports, including the genre’s uses and key writing conventions, tips for composing, and additional resources.

Uses

For short as well as semi-formal reports in business settings, memo reports are an increasingly common genre. Often such reports target an internal audience, for which memo conventions are appropriate. Also, the memo conventions of concision and heading use lend themselves well to organizing and arranging short reports. Memo reports are well suited for progress reports, proposals, recommendations, short studies, and persuasive reports or white papers.

Conventions

As the name implies, memo reports share many conventions with standard memos. Memo reports may exceed one page—several sources suggest ten pages as the limit for this genre, though as an internal document, expectations will vary between companies.

Formatting

The first page of the report begins with your company’s memo heading. The body of the report is divided into sections using headings that improve document scanability (see the HWI handout on headings). As in a standard memo, all text uses block formatting: single spaced, justified left, and with a double space between paragraphs. The only indentations should be for bulleted or numbered lists. For reports over a page, all subsequent pages begin with a header justified to the left containing the recipient’s name, date, and page number (see page 2 of this handout for an example).

Organization

Following the heading, memo reports begin with a brief introduction, stating the purpose of the report and giving a brief overview of the contents. In memo reports of only a few pages, the introduction should only take a few sentences. Longer reports require a more detailed executive summary. The body paragraphs should focus on major points, delivering need-to-know information and eliminating extraneous details. The purpose of the report will determine the organization of information in the body of the memo. Common organizational strategies include problem-solution, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, and chronological order. Sentence and paragraph structure should forefront and emphasize important information and major points—make sure these points are easy to find and not hidden behind less important information.

Composing Tips

Consider the following as you plan and write your report:
Before you write, identify the audience and purpose of the report and decide on the major points you will address. Then plan how to organize the information.

Howe Writing Initiative ‧ Farmer School of Business ‧ Miami University

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