Memoranda Today’s Presenter



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  • Memoranda
  • Adelheid L. J. Thieme
  • 1976: M. A. English, French
  • (University of Münster, Germany)
  • 1994: Ph. D. English Literature
  • (Arizona State University)
  • 1995-present: Instructor at Arizona State University:
  • Business Writing, Writing for Professions
  • Creative Non-fiction, Composition
  • 2000-present: editing, business writing for local non-profit organization

Today’s Topics

  • Defining memos
  • Preparing to write a memo
  • Formatting memos
  • Writing informative memos
  • Writing persuasive memos
  • Writing negative memos
  • Revising the message
  • Proofreading the message

Increased productivity

  • Increased productivity
  • Strong business relationships
  • Enhanced professional image
  • Better financial results
  • Higher employee satisfaction

Defining Memos

  • Memos are company internal letters.
  • (E-mail is taking over their function.)
  • Memos are more formal than e-mails, but less formal than business letters.
  • Originally used only in hard copy, they are now often processed electronically.
  • Memos vary in length.
  • (Short memos serve as inter- or intra-office communication; long memos may serve as reports.)

Preparing to write a memo

  • Learn your organization’s memo policy.
  • Analyze the attitudes and expectations of your audience.
  • -- Consider primary, secondary, tertiary etc. audiences.
  • -- Choose direct or indirect method.
  • Know the purpose of your message.
  • MEMO
  •  
  • TO: All Employees
  • FROM: Arthur Dahlquist, General Manager
  • DATE: June 21, 2008
  • SUBJECT: Wide Area Telephone Service (WATS) Lines
  •  
  • WATS lines were installed three years ago to give all employees easier telephone access to our customers and suppliers in other parts of the country. In fact, our company's growth rate has increased since then, and we attribute at least part of that growth to the new telephone system.
  •  
  • As sales have increased, so have our telephone bills. But, over the past few months, those bills have been growing faster than sales. It seems that a few people have been using the long-distance lines to make personal calls. Such misuse of the WATS lines reduces our profits (and thus the amount available for profit sharing by all employees), and it ties up lines that are needed for business calls.
  •  
  • Please do your part to keep our company profitable and healthy. If you absolutely must make a personal long-distance call during business hours, please charge it to your home phone. Your colleagues will appreciate your consideration.
  • Sample Memo Memo

Formatting Memos

  • Company Logo/Letterhead
  • Most companies use letterhead.
  • “Date” line
  • Lines up horizontally with printed Date/To/From/Subject
  • “To” line
  • Use reader’s name: e.g. John. K. Klein
  • Define group: e.g. All employees,

Formatting Memos (cont.)

  • 4. “From” line
  • -- Writer’s initials are added in ink.
  • -- Instead of initialing next to “From” line, you may
  • sign your name below last line.
  • “Subject” line
  • -- Provide a subject line that describes the topic and
  • focus of your message
  • -- Be specific and accurate to aid filing and later
  • retrieval.
  • -- Capitalize all major words except articles, prepositions,
  • and conjunctions.

Formatting Memos (cont.)

  • Vague: Energy Use
  • Specific: Low-Cost Way to Reduce Energy Use
  • Vague: Building Temperatures
  • Specific: Effectiveness of Reducing Building Temperatures on Weekends
  • Sample Subject lines

Formatting Memos (cont.)

  • For memos running two or more pages, use a heading at the top of the second and subsequent pages.
  • or
  • Reader’s Name Page Number Date

Formatting Memos (cont.)

  • Features of standard memos:
  • 1. No salutation
  • Omit “Dear Chris Crowell, Dear Employees,”
  • 2. No close
  • Omit “Sincerely, Cordially,”
  • 3. No signature or signature block

Formatting Memos (cont.)

  • 4. Use full block format without indentation.
  • 5. Headings are optional.
  • -- Never use a separate heading for the first paragraph.
  • -- Each heading must cover all the information until the next heading
  • 6. Double-space between paragraphs
  • 7. Triple-space before a heading

Writing Informative Memos

  • Present most important material first. (The first sentence of the memo should explain clearly its purpose, e.g. “The purpose of this memo is to request authorization to travel to the Juarez branch Thursday to meet with the other inspectors.”)
  • 2. Arrange remaining material in descending order of importance.
  • 3. Use a moderately formal tone.

Writing Informative Memos (cont.)

  • Date: June 3, 2008
  • To: All employees
  • From: James Pearce, Human Resources
  • Subject: Form for In-house Letters (memos)
  • _______________________________________________________________
  • This is an illustration of our memorandum stationary. It should be used for written communications within the organization.
  • Notice that the memorandum uses no form of salutation. Neither does it have any form of complimentary close. The writer does not need to sign the message. He or she needs to only initial after the typed name in the heading.
  • Notice also that the message is single-spaced with double spacing between paragraphs.
  • Sample of Informative Memo

Writing Persuasive Memos

  • Structure of persuasive memos:
  • Attention: Your opening introduces your topic and encourages your audience to hear more about your main idea.
  • Interest: Your explanation presents reasons and incites the interest of your audience.
  • Desire: Your continued explanation presents additional benefits of your idea and changes your audience’s attitude.
  • Action: Your close emphasizes benefits and motivates your audience to take specific action.
  • A
  • I
  • D
  • A

In spite of our recent switch to purchasing plastic products in bulk, our costs for the plastic containers that we use at company meetings are still high. In my January 5 memo, I included all the figures showing our excessive costs.

  • In spite of our recent switch to purchasing plastic products in bulk, our costs for the plastic containers that we use at company meetings are still high. In my January 5 memo, I included all the figures showing our excessive costs.
  • In January, I suggested we purchase plastic containers during winter months when petroleum prices tend to be lower. Because you approved that suggestion, we realized a 10 percent savings this year. A recycling program offered by the city could easily lead to additional savings.
  • Sample of Persuasive Memo
  • In addition to the cost in dollars is the cost in image. Many of our employees have complained about our lack of a recycling program for plastic containers.
  • I have attached a detailed report of the costs involved. Our net savings in the first year should run about $500. The recycling plan will help build our public image while improving our bottom line. If you agree, let’s meet next week. Please call me at ext. 2356 if you have any questions.
  • Desire: Points out solution of an associated problem
  • Action: Motivates by specifying savings and requests specific action
  • Sample of Persuasive Memo (Cont.)

Writing Persuasive Memos (cont.)

  • Create goodwill by being respectful
  • Demanding: Submit your answer within one week.
  • Respectful: I would appreciate your answer within one week.
  • Show “you” attitude by being positive and tactful
  • Negative:
  • Your complaint about our fees is way off target. They are definitely not higher than those of our competitors.
  • Tactful:
  • Thank you for your suggestion concerning our fees. We believe, however, that our fees are competitive, and in some cases below, those of our competitors.

Writing Persuasive Memos (cont.)

  • Emphasize reader’s needs and benefits
  • Weak: We must receive the sales receipt before we can
  • process the refund.
  • Improved: Please mail or fax the receipt so that we can
  • process your refund.
  • Use modest tone
  • Arrogant: My attached report is very thorough, and I am
  • sure you will be impressed.
  • Modest: The attached report contains details of the refinancing options that I hope you will find
  • useful.

Revising Persuasive Memos

  • Elements for consideration:
  • Tone
  • Structure
  • Visual appeal
  • Date: Mon, 22 September 2008 From: Susannah Beech, Human Resources Administrator To: Metro Power Employees Subject: Coping tactics for technical failures
  • This is a reminder that computer problems should be reported to Bart Stone immediately, and the violent tempers in the workplace cannot be tolerated.
  • Recently, three Metro employees were fired because of violent outbursts after an equipment failure. One woman was kicking her printer and screaming obscenities. A man threw his keyboard across the room when he couldn’t get on the Intranet, and a third employee put a fist through his computer screen after the system failed. We try to avoid firing people, but these employees frightened co-workers, so we had no choice.
  • We will do the same to anyone who screams at their computers or kicks their printers in the future. You can laugh, but it’s not funny. This is akin to workplace terrorism.
  • Computers should be turned off at night, cleaned with cleaning cloths, and food and drink products avoided. There are many ways to combat rising tempers. Walks around the building are a good tactic for calming down.
  • Technology glitches are not some unholy terror. They are commonplace. Let’s behave like adults in the future, shall we?
  •  Susannah Beech, Human Resources Administrator
  • Analysis of a Poorly Phrased Persuasive Memo
  • Date: Mon, 22 September 2008 From: Susannah Beech To: Metro Power Employees Subject: Coping tactics for technical failures
  •  We all know the stress of racing toward a deadline and suddenly having your equipment fail. Here are a few suggestions to help you stave off—and cope with—technical equipment and systems failures when they do occur:
  • Stay cool. Tech failures are commonplace in business; your bosses and co-workers will understand.
  • Practice preventive maintenance. Use cleaning cloths and sprays regularly, keep liquids and foods away from sensitive keyboards and printers, and make sure systems are shut down when you leave at night.
  • For faster repair assistance, promptly report computer failures to Bart Stone, assistant director of information services, ext. 2238.
  • The last suggestion is perhaps the most important to keep your career on track. Lost tempers, violent outbursts, and rude language are threatening to co-workers, and could result in reprimands or other disciplinary action. So stay calm and make good use of technical support hotlines and assistance.
  • Ask your supervisor for a list of support numbers to keep handy. The next time you experience a technology glitch, you’ll be able to handle it as just another aspect of your business routine.
  •  Susannah Beech, Human Resources Administrator
  • Improved Version

Writing Negative Memos

  • General pattern of a negative memo:
  • A neutral, non-controversial opening statement that is closely related to the point of the message (= buffer)
  • A logical, neutral explanation of the reasons for the bad news
  • Statement of the bad news
  • 4. A positive close
  • Date: March 17, 2009
  • To: Financial Records Department Employees
  • From: Gerald Payne, Director of Financial Records Department
  • Subject: Student Requests for Quarterly Reports
  • We at Quality Corporation have recently been approached by college business students who would like to conduct research on companies such as ours. Their project sounds interesting, and we certainly wish we could participate.
  • However, our board requires strict confidentiality of all sales information until quarterly reports are mailed to stockholders. We release press reports at the same time the quarterly reports go out, and we certainly would not mind including the students in our future mailings.
  • Although we cannot release projected figures, we are more than willing to share information that is part of the public record. We also value the interest that business students take in our company.
  • Sample of Negative Memo

Revising Negative Messages

  • Elements for consideration:
  • Audience awareness
  • Organization
  • Content
  • Tone
  • Date: 28 May 2009
  • From: Walt Cummings, Director of Travel and Meeting Services
  • To: AZ Venture Traveling Executives
  • Subject: Travel Budget Cuts Effective Immediately
  •  
  • We need to start making some budget cuts in our travel expenditures. These include staying in cheaper hotels, arranging flights for cheaper times, and renting more reasonable cars.
  • The company needs to cut travel expenses by 25 percent. This means you’ll no longer stay in fancy hotels and make last minute, costly changes to your travel plans.
  • Never return a rental car with an empty tank! That causes the rental agency to charge us a premium price for the gas they sell when they fill it up upon your return.
  • You’ll be expected to make these changes in your travel habits immediately. Travel allowances will reflect the 25% reduction. In the future, any expenses beyond the allowance will come out of your own pockets.
  •  
  •  
  • Analysis of a Poorly Worded Negative Memo
  • Improved version
  • 2. When renting a car, remember that carpooling and renting fuel-friendly economy cars will save lots of money. As you all know, the price of gas is a major factor in travel expenses, so cutting down on gas usage is vital. Also take the time to refuel the vehicle before returning it so that we can avoid the company surcharge on gas.
  • Please book hotel rooms in advance to qualify for lower rates. If at all possible, consider sharing a room with one of your co-workers.
  • If you apply these money saving tactics to your travel plans, travel expenses can be cut by 25%. In the future, any money spent above the allowed amount will be your personal responsibility. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
  • Improved version (cont.)

Proofreading the message

  • Date: February 26 2009
  • To: All employees
  • From: Julia Wake
  • Subject: Protecting Webcor in the Blogosphere
  • Our companys reputation is vital to our success. Our public image plays a key roll in our relationships with current and potential customers, suppliers, lenders, government agencies, and community groups. In addition, our strategic plans, financial plans, and other confidential information need to be protected for not only legal but competitive reasons as well. These two factors, along with the need to ensure that company networks are not used to transmit inappropriate materials, lead to the company’s decision to begin monitoring employee e-mail messages in 2002 and instant messages in 2004.
  • Trying to protect the company’s important resources, monitoring of employee blogs will begin on April 1. As with e-mail and IM, the intent here is not to “spy” on anyone or discourage their conversations in the online community but rather to ensure that Webcor maintains a positive culture internally and a positive reputation externally.
  • We also do not want to squelch legitimate and constructive criticism within the company. If you do have a question or concern; I encourage you to speak with your immediate supervisor. If that conversation does not yield satisfactory answers, please take advantage of our “open-door” tradition to speak with any member of senior management.
  • If you have any questions about the blog monitoring effort, please fell free to e-mail me or call me at extension 254.
  • Proofread

Proofreading the message (cont.)

  • Date: 2-10-2009
  • To: All employees
  • From: Julia Wake
  • Subject: Protecting Webcor in the Blogosphere
  • 1. In dates, use figures for the day and year, but spell out the month (especially in international communication).
  • U.S. usage: February 10, 2009
  • Military and European usage: 10 February 2009

Proofreading the message (cont.)

  • Our companys reputation is vital to our success.
  • 2. company’s (Note the possessive case)
  • Use of apostrophe for possession:
  • Singular noun: my company’s policies (noun + apostrophe + s)
  • Regular plural noun: my neighbors’ houses (noun + s + apostrophe)
  • Irregular plural noun: the women’s dresses, the men’s conference, the children’s toys (noun + apostrophe + s)

Proofreading the message (cont.)

  • Our public image plays a key roll in our relationships with current and potential customers, suppliers, lenders, government agencies, and community groups.

Proofreading the message (cont.)

  • In addition, our strategic plans, financial plans, and other confidential information need to be protected for not only legal but competitive reasons as well.
  • 4. not only … but also
  • In addition, … need to be protected for not only legal but also competitive reasons.
  • Note similar expressions:
  • both … and; on the one hand … on the other hand; either … or; neither … nor

Proofreading the message (cont.)

  • These two factors along with the need to ensure that company networks are not used to transmit inappropriate materials lead to the company’s decision to begin monitoring employee e-mail messages in 2002 and instant messages in 2004.
  • 5. These two factors, along with the need to ensure that company networks are not used to transmit inappropriate materials,
  • (Inserted phrases that provide additional information need a comma on either side.)
  • 6. led (“led” is past tense of the verb “lead”)

Proofreading the message (cont.)

  • Trying to protect the company’s important resources, monitoring of employee blogs will begin on April 1.
  • 8. Rephrase:
  • Trying to protect the company’s resources, we will also begin monitoring of employee blogs on April 1.
  • or
  • In the same spirit of protecting the company’s important resources, we will begin monitoring employee blogs on April 1.
  • (Dangling modifier: “monitoring” cannot be “trying” to do something.)

Proofreading the message (cont.)

  • As with e-mail and IM, the intent here is not to “spy” on anyone or discourage their conversations in the online community but rather to ensure that Webcor maintains a positive culture internally and a positive reputation externally.
  • 9. Pronoun agreement:
  • As with e-mail and IM, the intent is not to “spy” on employees or discourage their conversations …

Proofreading the message (cont.)

  • We also do not want to squelch legitimate and constructive criticism within the company. If you do have a question or concern; I encourage you to speak with your immediate supervisor.
  • 10. Use of comma vs. semicolon:
  • “If you do have a question or concern, I encourage you to speak with your immediate supervisor.”
  • A comma is used to separate a subordinate clause from the following main (= independent) clause.
  • A semicolon typically separates two independent clauses that are closely related in meaning if there is no conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) between them.
  • (e.g. We are late; we need to leave immediately.)
  • To: Steve McArthur, Jay Rosen
  • Date: July 24, 2009
  • From: Jim Barnard JB
  • Subject: Proofreading Letter Announcing Partnership
  • Here is my draft for a letter to announce are new partnership to clients. Please indicate changes on this memo and return it to my mailbox. Thanks.
  • Dear <>,
  • After 30 years at Madison & Cowden I have decided to join with two other advisors and create a Partnership. Our combined experience gives you the benefit of over half a century of knowledge and three sets of eyes watching your investments.
  • My new partners, Steve McArthur and Jay Rosen both have 25 years of experience as Advisors and are focused in the same areas that I have focused on with you for many years. Steve’s experience includes working as a Branch Manager in Orange County and Jay was a Complex Manager running much of of Orange County as well as all of Riverside County at UBS Financial Services. They both hold degrees in economics from the University of Southern California. We all believe in the same time tested principals of building solid stocks and bonds in quality enterprises.
  • We look forward to continuing to serve you here at Madison & Cowden in the years’ ahead. Steve and Jay will be making contact to introduce them selves to you over the coming weeks.
  • << my signature>>

Characteristics of Effective Memos

  • Civilized: use courtesy and tact
  • Concise: condense information
  • Coherent: use clear and logical structure
  • Compelling: use persuasive diction
  • Correct: follow conventions of quality writing


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