Memoranda and Office Memos

1. Definition

A memorandum is “a short legal document that contains the important details of an agreement”. [1]
A memo is “a short official note to another person in the same company or organization”. [2]

2. Introduction

Memoranda and office memos differ a great deal in style. A memorandum, at its most formal, may serve as an amendment or supplement to a legal document, as in the case of Memorandum signed by the Government of the UK and the Government of China in connection with the Joint Declaration on the question of Hong Kong. Office memos, by contrast, are solely for internal communication. They are documents most often exchanged among people within a department or between departments of branches of an organization. "In a business environment the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Memorandum of Association (MOA) are common. Apart from specific memos, two of which have been cited earlier, a memorandum is usually not more than one page." [3] In general, office memos are informal, though there may be variation in level of formality. Reporting to a superior about some serious issues suggests distance and respect on the part of the writer and therefore entails a more formal style, whereas staff with an equal status or with close relations will be more casual when writing to each other. So, the register depends on the subject matter and the relationship between the sender and the addresser.

3. Notes & Analysis

1) Functions of Formal Memoranda

Memoranda are drawn up in legal language (probably by a lawyer) and signed by both parties. They make specific information a matter of record. They serve as legal documents that can be referred to and used as the basis for review and action or as a source material. Sample is an example of this. It is a record of the joint efforts and negotiations between the two parties concerning the cooperation in manufacturing and selling of a brand product. It has the same function as a Letter of Intent, which will serve as the basis for the signing of a formal contract.

2) Functions of Office Memos

Office memos serve several functions:
a) Memos record policies, decisions, and action items agreed to at a meeting or conference. They provide summaries of meetings for participants as well as for those who were absent, which has the same function as the minutes of meeting. In fact the difference between this memo and the minutes of a meeting is hard to see.
b) Memos serve as an effective medium of office communication. They provide an easy channel through which the executive and the staff communicate with each other. On the one hand the executives can inform staff of policies, procedures and actions, on the other hand, staff can report to the superior, to make proposals or to ask for comments, approvals and instructions. Staff members may also use the memo to brief each other on new developments or to make comments or requests. Communicating through memos saves time and avoids lengthy conversations.
c) Memos may also be sent to individuals both inside or outside the institution to confirm the understandings reached after a telephone conversation or an interview, especially when the matter concerned is important.
In fact the memo is a most useful genre of writing in a contemporary business, and the way you write it reflects your professionalism.

4. Guidelines of Memoranda & Business Memos Writing

1) How to Contract a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA)

1. Insert heading in the first line.
In the first line of the document, insert the words, "MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT", in all capital letters---center the line. This line will operate as the title and will identify the document.
2. Identify the parties of the agreement.
Below the title line begin a the first paragraph with the statement, "This agreement is made between [insert first party's name] and [insert second party's name], on the _ day of 20_". When creating this introduction you want to also add specifics about the parties. For instance, if the agreement is between a contractor and a construction company, the introduction would state the type of company and where the company is headquartered (i.e., "a construction company headquartered out of Cleveland, Ohio").
3. Explain the subject matter of the agreement, and the objectives.
In the next paragraph explain the venture that is at hand, and the overall intent, of the parties involved. For example, if there is a contractor and construction company, as in the previous step, the paragraph would start saying, "Whereas Don's Building and Miller's Construction, hereby agree to launch a commercial construction project, on the lot located on the corner of Superior Avenue and St. Clair Avenue, in Cleveland, on or about March 7th, 20__."
4. Outline the essential terms of the agreement.
In the next paragraph cover the details about the agreement. In this section address the specified time period for the venture, assignments and responsibilities of each party, disclaimers, financial arrangements and risk-sharing among the parties. Be very clear and specific in this section.
5. Conclude the memorandum by inserting signatory fields.
Once the details of the agreement are complete, insert two uniform signatory lines, and beneath these lines insert the names of the signatory parties signing the agreement. If there are companies involved, insert the company name, and the name/title of the signatory representative. Insert the word "Date" on the far right of each signatory line, to indicate where the parties are to write the date when signing.

2) Tips to Write a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

1. Hold a meeting consisting of all involved parties to determine what functions, services, or resources will be shared and discuss a plan as to how the organizations will operate together.
2. Write out the main purpose or goal of the agreement and determine what specific outcomes are expected.
3. Determine a time line as to when the partnership and agreement will begin and when it will end. Be specific regarding the dates.
4. Write down and determine which organization will be responsible for which services and resources.
5. Draft the memorandum of understanding based on the decisions that were made during the meeting. Let all parties review, sign, and authorize the MoU.

3) Tips to Write a Good Business Memo

1.Organize your thoughts before writing the memo. Memos are meant to be direct and to the point, so make sure that you have all the important information you need organized in an efficient manner.
2.Understand the format of a basic memo. The heading of the memo always includes the date, the name of the sender, the names of the recipients and the subject heading. Make the subject heading as specific as possible.
3.Simplify your information. A memo must be able to be read quickly and easily understood. Replace large words or uncommon vocabulary with synonyms that will be understood and more to the point. Use bullets and numbered lists where appropriate.
4.Eliminate any statements that are not directly related to the purpose of the memo. A memo is not the right place to expound upon one's personal opinions or thoughts. These will only serve to add unnecessary length to your memo and could distract your audience from the main focus.
5.Remember your audience. Consider who will be reading your memo and be sure to write your memo in a style and language that will be appealing and easily understood.
6.Include everyone. Be sure prior to sending out your memo that you have included everyone that will need access to the information it contains in the list of people who will receive it. Failure to include all necessary people could result in a breakdown in communication or confusion, not to mention your information not reaching all the sources you intended.
7.Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation before sending out your memo. Any grammatical mistakes will be distracting to those receiving the memo and will also make it appear less professional.

5. Samples

1) Memorandum of Agreement



2) Memorandum of Understanding


3) Business Memo


6. Further Reading


  1. ^ Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2007.print.
  2. ^ Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2007.print.
  3. ^ Siyi Fu, A Practical Writing Course for College Students. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2003. Print.