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Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks
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Lesson Objectives: To understand how memos are structured.
Adapted from: http://www.prenticehall.ca/rogers/1_2.html
Memos: Effective communication within organizations is essential to optimal functioning. If you can write informative and brief memos, you have an edge. This section shows how to get that edge.
You will usually have no difficulty coming up with the content of a good memo: You won't want to write one until you feel some strong need to get something done. You might want to remind your colleagues or employees of the correct procedures to do something. Writing a memo may get the job done.
Creating the Content of Memos: Be brief. Your co-workers are probably working nearly as hard as you are. They don't have the time to read long, windy memos.
You may find it helpful to sit and think about the main point you want to make. Some people jot a few notes. Ask yourself: What is my reason for writing this? What do I need to say so my reader understands me? Once you've got a clear idea of the message you want to send, express it in the fewest words, and think about how to organize it for the greatest effect.
Organizing Your Memo: If you glance at the figure showing a memo (figure 1, below), it will be easier to understand these ideas about how to organize a memo. To make it easy for your reader to quickly decide if the memo is important, or even whether to read it, organize it to immediately tell the reader:
Figure 1: Example of a
FROM: Parking Authority Office
DATE: August 27, 2002
SUBJECT: NEW PARKING PERMIT STICKERS
Memos typically consist of several very brief paragraphs, moving from a general statement of the main point to the details necessary to act. Often a paragraph is a single sentence. The paragraphs are arranged from the most important to the least important. Write memos just long enough to tell your readers the relevant information. Memos should be brief. Don't deal with more than one topic in one memo. If you start to feel that there's a lot more to say, you probably need to write a report.
Writing Memos with Effective Appearance: Even the appearance of the memo is designed to speed the reader along. Readers find the information quickly and easily when writers use block style, aligning all entries on the left margin. Use the tab or indent feature of your word processor to align all the particular details (i.e., the name of the recipient, sender, date and the text of the subject line) just to the right of the longest line, the subject line. You should also bold and underline to draw attention to the subject line. Make the most important information really stand out.
Activity: Analyzing a Memo: Read the two memos (figures 1 and 2). Form a group of four, discuss the questions, and record the group's answer to each question. Be prepared to discuss your answers.