Examples

Proposal Memo

Proposal maker.

proposal memo assignment

Memos are an effective way to communicate in business. A memo format offers short but concise information that gets through to the entire company.

What accounts for an effective memo is in how the professional memo is made. Examples on the page show different proposal memos. They can be used as reference in making your own memo. All examples in the site are available for download by clicking on the download link button below each sample. So scroll down the page to view more examples of proposal memos and you may find the exact memo sample you have been looking for.

Proposal Memo Example

proposal memo

  • Google Docs

Size: A4, US

Project Proposal Memo Template

Project Proposal Memo Template

  • Apple Pages

Size: 43 KB

Proposal Memo Template

Proposal Memo Template

Research Proposal Memo Example

Research Proposal Memo Example

Size: 23 KB

Event Proposal Memo

Event Proposal Memo

Size: 321 KB

What Is a Proposal Memo?

A proposal memo is a short document which intends to convey a plan of action or simply a proposal to the recipients. It highlights the key points to a proposal and provides steps in the execution of the proposal.

A quick glance at the sample memo and business memo examples in the page will show you how a memo is made and the format it follows. Download them for free to get a closer look.

Business Proposal Memo Sample

Business Proposal Memo Sample

Size: 97 KB

Proposal Memo Assignment

Proposal Memo Assignment

Size: 106 KB

Final Project Proposal Memo

Final Project Proposal Memo

Size: 24 KB

How to Write a Proposal Memo

In writing a proposal memo, the following points should be considered:

1. The header

The header should include who the memo is addressed to, who it is from, date and the subject or topic of the memo. You may also see legal memo examples & samples .

2. The problem or issue

A paragraph must be dedicated to the determination of the problem and discusses the issues related to it.

3. The solution

Another paragraph should be made that describes the solution to the problem. It should define the solution in a concise and detailed manner. You may also like audit memo examples & samples .

4. Call to action

Creates precise steps to take in addressing the problem.

5. Attachments

A reference for any attachments should be made if any.

Memo examples in PDF and office memo examples seen in the page provide further information regarding how a memo is made and structured. Just click on any individual download link to access the sample.

Internal Proposal Memo Example

Internal Proposal Memo Example

Budget Proposal Memo

Budget Proposal Memo

Size: 60 KB

Proposal Plan Memo Sample

Proposal Plan Memo Sample

New Proposal Memo

New Proposal Memo

Size: 49 KB

Research Paper Proposal Sample Memo

Research Paper Proposal Sample Memo

Size: 70 KB

Feasibility Report Proposal Memo

Feasibility Report Proposal Memo

What Is the Purpose of a Proposal Memo?

A proposal memo has specifically a threefold purpose:

1. One is to shed light to a subject matter at hand. It aims to direct attention to an issue or existing problem. It details the specifics related to the problem including the factors that contribute to the issue. It provides helpful information to better understand the conditions that brought about the issue and what conditions the issue brings out as well. You may also see how do you write a proposal?

2. The second purpose a proposal memo has is that it provides a solution to the stated problem or issue . It describes any supporting ideas that give way to resolving the issue.

3. Lastly, a proposal memo brings about a call to action. It entices the recipient, in its best interests, to take action in resolving the issue. It outlines the next specific steps to be taken to solve the issue.

Memo examples and   office memo examples in word shown in the page can be viewed closer or at full length by clicking on the download link button below the sample. Other samples of memos exist in the site as well. Just go to the home page and search for a specific memo sample that you like.

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How to Write the Proposal Memo

The Proposal Memo serves several purposes:

One, it is usually necessary in the work place to make a proposal to supervisors, have it approved, and possibly receive resources before beginning on a project. Therefore, this is a fairly common real-world writing task.

Two, writing this memo provides you an opportunity to implement the strategies of persuasive writing in a substantial business document.

Three, work on this memo moves you a step closer to your final project, the research-based persuasive report. Writing this memo will help ensure that you have done adequate primary and secondary research and that you have mapped out a clear problem, solution, audience, and plan for your final report.

How Should I Format My Memo?

You should format a memo using the preferred style in your company or work place. To do so, you would study published memos to determine margin size, font style and point size, where the date is placed, whether there is a preference for "Subject:" or "Re:", and so on.

What Should Be in the Memo?

The first part of any memo is the header, in which you identify the recipients, the sender, and the subject. Please address your memo to the decision maker or group of decision makers in your work place or community. Next, the memo should have the following six sections. Be sure to give each section a subtitle that fits with your overall proposal:

  • Summary : Most memos begin with a clear statement of purpose--the goal of the memo. However, as someone using reader-based prose, this is also the place to employ the strategy of establishing common ground and common goals.
  • What the problem is : Clearly identify and describe the problem for which you are proposing a solution. Try to limit this section to one paragraph.
  • Why this problem needs to be investigated : Here you are providing reasons why you think the problem is important in terms of the impact it is having. This should be one to two paragraphs.
  • Preliminary ideas for solving the problem : Here you supply the alternatives, recommendations, or solutions that you are considering. This should be one to two paragraphs.
  • What research has been conducted on the problem : Describe primary and secondary research that has been or will be carried out as you study the problem and its solution.
  • Conclusion : Since this is a proposal memo, the conclusion is where you ask for the permission, time, and resources that you will need to accomplish what you have outlined above.

In terms of length, completing each of the six sections will require more than one page. However, try to limit your memo to two pages or around 1000-1400 words. Slightly more or slightly less is fine, as is going to a third page, if it is justified.

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

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A policy memo is a practical, professionally written document that can vary in length from one page to over twenty-five pages. It provides analysis and recommendations directed to a predetermined audience regarding a specific situation, topic, or issue. A well-written policy memo reflects attention to the policy problem. It is well organized and structured in a clear and concise style that assumes the reader possesses limited knowledge of, as well as little time to conduct research about, the topic of concern. There is no thesis statement or overall theoretical framework underpinning the document; the focus is on describing one or more specific policy recommendations and their supporting action items.

Bhasin, Tavishi and Charity Butcher. “Teaching Effective Policy Memo Writing and Infographics in a Policy Programme.” European Political Science 21 (2022): 1-17; Davis, Jennifer. Guide to Writing Effective Policy Memos. MIT OpenCourseWare, Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Planning in Developing Countries, Spring 2004; Judge, Andrew. "Designing and Implementing Policy Writing Assessments: A Practical Guide." Teaching Public Administration 39 (2021): 351-368; Pennock, Andrew. “The Case for Using Policy Writing in Undergraduate Political Science Courses.” PS: Political Science and Politics 44 (January 2011): 141-146.

How to Approach Writing a Policy Memo

Benefits of Writing a Policy Memo

Writing a policy memo is intended to support the following learning outcomes:

  • Helps students learn how to write academically rigorous, persuasive papers about a specific “real-world” issue;
  • Teaches how to choose and craft a document’s content based on the needs of a particular audience [rather than for a general readership];
  • Prepares students to write an effective position paper in non-academic settings;
  • Promotes researching, organizing, and writing a persuasive paper that emphasizes presenting evidence-based recommendations rather than simply reporting a study's findings;
  • Teaches students to be client-oriented and to better anticipate the assumptions and concerns of their targeted readership;
  • Encourages reflective thinking about the cause and consequential effect of a particular recommendation and to anticipate what questions stakeholder groups may have; and,
  • Enables students to create original work that synthesizes policy-making research into a clearly written document advocating change and specific courses of action.

Do not approach writing a policy memo in the same way as you would an academic research paper . Yes, there are certain commonalities in how the content is presented [e.g., a well-written problem statement], but the overarching objective of a policy memo is not to discover or create new knowledge. It is focused on providing to a predetermined group of readers the rationale for choosing a particular policy alternative and/or specific courses of action leading to positive social and political change within society. In this sense, most policy memos possess a component of advocacy and advice intended to promote evidence-based dialog about an issue.

Essential Elements of an Effective Policy Memo Focus and Objectives The overall content of your memo should be strategically aimed at achieving the following goal: convincing your target audience about the accuracy of your analysis and, by extension, that your policy recommendations are valid. Avoid lengthy digressions and superfluous narration that can distract the reader from understanding the policy problem. Note that your target audience is defined in two ways: by the decision-makers who can advocate for or implement change and by individuals and groups most likely impacted by your policy recommendations should they be implemented. Professionally Written Always keep in mind that a policy memorandum is a tool for decision-making. Keep it professional and avoid hyperbole and clever or indeterminate language that could undermine the credibility of your document. The presentation and content of the memo should be polished, easy to understand, and free of jargon. Writing professionally does not imply that you can’t be passionate about your topic, but your policy recommendations should be evidence-based and grounded in solid reasoning and a succinct writing style. Evidence-based A policy memo is not an argumentative debate paper. The reader should expect your recommendations to be based upon evidence that the problem exists and understand the consequences [both good and bad] of adopting particular policy alternatives. To address this, policy memos should include a clear cost-benefit analysis that considers anticipated outcomes, the potential impact on stakeholder groups you have identified, clear and quantifiable performance goals, and how success will be measured. Accessibility A policy memo requires clear and simple language that avoids unnecessary jargon and concepts of an academic discipline. Do not skip around. Use one paragraph to develop one idea or argument and make that idea or argument explicit within the first one or two sentences. Your memo should have a straightforward, explicit organizational structure that provides well-explained arguments arranged within a logical sequence of reasoning [think in terms of an if/then logic model--if this policy recommendation, then this action; if this benefit, then this potential cost; if this group is allocated resources, then this group may be excluded]. Presentation Style The visual impact of your memo affects the reader’s ability to grasp your ideas quickly and easily. Include a table of contents and list of figures and charts, if necessary. Subdivide the text using clear and descriptive headings to guide the reader. Incorporate devices such as capitalization, bold text, and bulleted items, but be consistent, and don’t go crazy; the purpose is to facilitate access to specific sections of the paper for successive readings. If it is difficult to find information in your document, policy makers will not use it. Practical and Feasible Your memorandum should provide a set of actions based on what is actually happening in reality. Do not base your policy recommendations on future scenarios or hypothetical situations that could be interpreted as unlikely to occur or that do not appear possible because you have not adequately explained the circumstances supporting these scenarios. Here again, your cost-benefit analysis can be essential to validating the practicality and feasibility of your recommendations. Explicit Transparency Provide specific criteria to assess either the success or failure of the policies you are recommending. As much as possible, this criteria should be derived from your cost/benefit analysis or framed as a SWOT [Strengths-weaknesses, opportunities-threats]. Do not hide or under-report information that does not support your policy recommendations. Just as you would note the limitations of your study in a research paper, a policy memo should describe issues of weakness of your analysis. Explain why they may arise and why your recommendations are still valid despite these issues. Be open and straightforward because doing so strengthens your arguments and it will help the reader assess the overall impact of recommended policy changes.

NOTE: Technically, it would not be wrong for your policy memo to argue for maintaining the status quo. However, the general objective of a policy memo assignment is to critically examine opportunities for transformative change and to highlight the risks of on-going complacency. If you choose to argue for maintaining the current policy trajectory, in whole or in part, be concise in identifying and systematically refuting all relevant policy options. Again, it must be rooted in an evidence-based cost/benefit analysis. Whether maintaining current policies is short-term or long-term [and these need to be clearly defined], you must explain concisely why each possible outcome of maintaining the status quo would be preferable to any alternative policy options and recommended courses of action. If your argument for maintaining the status quo is short-term, explain what factors in the future could trigger a policy-related course correction.

Herman, Luciana. Policy Memos. John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard University; How to Write a Public Policy Memo. Student Learning Center. University of California, Berkeley; Policy Memo. Thompson Writing Program, Writing Studio. Duke University; Policy Memo Guidelines. Cornell Fellows Program. Cornell University; Memo: Audience and Purpose. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Policy Memo Requirements and Guidelines, 2012-2013 edition. Institute for Public Policy Studies. University of Denver; Thrall, A. Trevor. How to Write a Policy Memo. University of Michigan--Dearborn, 2006; Mastro, Oriana Skylar. "Teach What you Preach: A Comprehensive Guide to the Policy Memo as a Methods Teaching Tool." Journal of Political Science Education 17 (2021): 326-340; Writing Effective Memos. Electronic Hallway. Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. University of Washington; Writing Effective Policy Memos. Water & Sanitation Infrastructure Planning syllabus. Spring 2004. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Structure and Writing Style

The contents of a policy memo can be organized in a variety of ways. Below is a general template adapted from the “Policy Memo Requirements and Guidelines, 2012-2013 edition” published by the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver and from suggestions made in the book, A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem-Solving [Eugene Bardach. 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2012] . Both sources provide useful approaches to writing a policy memo in the event your professor does not provide specific guidance. Overall, the tone of your writing should be formal but assertive. Note that the most important consideration in terms of writing style is professionalism, not creativity. I.  Cover Page Provide a complete and informative cover page that includes the document title, date, the full names and titles of the writer or writers [i.e., Joe Smith, Student, Department of Political Science, University of Southern California]. The title of the policy memo should be formally written and specific to the policy issue [e.g., “Charter Schools, Fair Housing, and Legal Standards: A Call for Equal Treatment”]. For longer memos, consider including a brief executive summary that highlights key findings and recommendations.

II.  Introduction and Problem Definition A policy memorandum should begin with a short summary introduction that defines the policy problem, provides important contextual background information, and explains what issues are being covered. This is followed by a short justification for writing the memo, why a decision needs to be made [answering the “So What?” question], and an outline of the recommendations you make or key themes the reader should keep in mind. Summarize your main points in a few sentences, then conclude with a description of how the remainder of the memo is organized.

III.  Methods This is usually where other research about the problem or issue of concern is summarized. Describe how you plan to identify and locate the information on which your policy memo is based. This may include peer-reviewed journals and books as well as possible professionals you interviewed, databases and websites you explored, or legislative histories or relevant case law that you used. Remember this is not intended to be a thorough literature review; only choose sources that persuasively support your position or that help lay a foundation for understanding why actions need to be taken.

IV.  Issue Analysis This section is where you explain in detail how you examined the issue and, by so doing, persuade the reader of the appropriateness of your analysis. This is followed by a description of how your analysis contributes to the current policy debate. It is important to demonstrate that the policy issue may be more complex than a basic pro versus con debate. Very few public policy debates can be reduced to this type of rhetorical dichotomy. Be sure your analysis is thorough and takes into account all factors that may influence possible strategies that could advance a recommended set of solutions.

V.  Proposed Solutions Write a brief review of the specific solutions you evaluated, noting the criteria by which you examined and compared different proposed policy alternatives. Identify the stakeholders impacted by the proposed solutions and describe in what ways they will benefit from your proposed solution. Focus on identifying solutions that have not been proposed or tested elsewhere. Offer a contrarian viewpoint that challenges the reader to take into account a new perspective on the research problem. Note that you can propose solutions that may be considered radical or unorthodox, but they must be realistic and politically feasible.

VI.  Strategic Recommendations Solutions are just opinions until you provide a path that delineates how to get from where you are to where you want to go. Describe what you believe are the best recommended courses of action [i.e., "action items"]. In writing this section, state the broad approach to be taken, with specific, practical steps or measures that should be implemented. Be sure to also state by whom and within what time frame these actions should be taken. Conclude by highlighting the consequences of maintaining the status quo [or if supporting the status quo, why change at this time would be detrimental]. Also, clearly explain why your strategic recommendations are best suited for addressing the current policy situation.

VI.  Limitations As in any academic paper, you must describe limitations to your analysis. In particular, ask yourself if each of your recommendations are realistic, feasible, and sustainable, and in particular, that they can be implemented within the current bureaucratic, economic, political, cultural, social, or other type of contextual climate in which they reside. If not, you should go back and clarify your recommendations and provide further evidence as to why the recommendation is most appropriate for addressing the issue. It does not necessarily undermine the overall recommendations of your study if the limitation cannot be overcome, but you must clearly acknowledge this. Place the limitation within the context of a critical issue that needs further study in concurrence with possible implementation [i.e., findings indicate service learning promotes civic engagement, but there is a lack of data on the types of service learning programs that exist among high schools in South Central Los Angeles].

VII.  Cost-Benefit Analysis This section may be optional but, in some cases, your professor may ask you to include an explicit summary analysis of the costs and benefits of each recommendation. If you are asked to include a separate cost-benefit analysis, be concise and brief. Since most policy memos do not have a formal conclusion, the cost-benefit analysis can act as your conclusion by summarizing the key differences among policy alternatives and recommended courses of action.

NOTE:   A feature found in many policy memos is the inclusion of text boxes or sidebars that are separate from the main body of text. A text box contains a useful checklist, case study, summary, example, quotation, definition, or expansion of an idea that is located close to the text it supports. A sidebar is a type of exclamation located beside or within the main content that brings further attention to a key point or is used to encourage the reader to pay particular attention to that section of the memo. A sidebar often contains a quotation or brief statement lifted from the main text. Both features are appropriate to use in your policy memo, but don't overdo it. Limit the use of a text box or sidebar to only the most essential text that expands or adds value to understanding content in a specific section of the policy memo, in particular, in the issue analysis section or when describing your strategic recommendations.

Bardach, Eugene. A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem-Solving . 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2012; Herman, Luciana. Policy Memos. John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard University; How to Write a Public Policy Memo. Student Learning Center. University of California, Berkeley; Policy Memo Guidelines. Cornell Fellows Program. Cornell University; Memo: Audience and Purpose. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Pennock, Andrew. “The Case for Using Policy Writing in Undergraduate Political Science Courses.” PS: Political Science and Politics 44 (January 2011): 141-146; Policy Memo Requirements and Guidelines, 2012-2013 edition. Institute for Public Policy Studies. University of Denver; Text Boxes and Callouts. Australian Government Style Manual; Thrall, A. Trevor. How to Write a Policy Memo. University of Michigan--Dearborn, 2006; Sajedinejad, S., et al. From Research to Impact: A Toolkit for Developing Effective Policy Briefs . Toronto, Ontario: Policy Bench, Fraser Mustard Institute of Human Development, University of Toronto, 2021; What Are Policy Briefs. FAO Corporate Document Repository. United Nations; Writing Effective Memos. Electronic Hallway. Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. University of Washington; Writing Effective Policy Memos. Water & Sanitation Infrastructure Planning syllabus. Spring 2004. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Proofreading the Memo

Problems to Avoid

The style and arrangement of an effectively written memo can differ because no two policies, nor their intended audience of readers, are exactly the same. Nevertheless, before you submit your policy memo, be sure you proofread the document so that you avoid these common problems. If you identify one or more of these problems, you should rewrite or re-organize the content accordingly.

1.  Acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences . No policy analysis is complete until you have identified for whom the policy actions are supposed to benefit and identify what groups may be impacted by the consequences of their implementation. Review your memo and make sure you have clearly delineated who could be helped and who could be potentially harmed or excluded from benefiting from your recommended policy actions. As noted by Wilcoxen, this is also important because describing who may or may not benefit can help you anticipate which stakeholder groups will support your policy recommendations and which groups will likely oppose it. Calculating potential "winners" and "losers" will help reveal how much it may cost to compensate those groups excluded from benefiting. By building this compensation into your policy recommendations, you are better able to show the reader how to reduce political obstacles.

2.  Anticipate the Reader's Questions . Examine your recommended courses of action and identify any open-ended, declarative, indeterminate, or ambiguous statements that could lead the reader to have to ask further questions. For example, you declare that the most important factor supporting school choice among parents is distance from home. Without clarification or additional information, this could lead the reader to ask numerous questions, such as, why or by what means do you know this, what distance is considered to be too far, what factors contribute to parent's decision about school choice and distance from schools, or what age group does this most apply to. Clarify these types of open-ended statements so that your policy recommendations can be more fully understood and accepted as valid.

3.  Be Concise . Being succinct in your writing does not relate to the overall length of the policy memo or the amount of words you use. It relates to your ability to provide a lot of information clearly and without superfluous detail. Strategies include r eviewing long paragraphs and breaking them up into parts, looking for long sentences and eliminating unnecessary qualifiers and modifiers, and deleting prepositional phrases in favor of adjectives or adverbs. The overarching goal is to be thorough and precise in how your ideas are presented and to avoid writing that uses too many words or excessively technical expressions.

4.  Focus on the Results . While it is important that your memo describe the methods by which you gathered and analyzed the data informing your policy recommendations, the content should focus on explaining the results of your analysis and the logic underpinning your recommendations. Remember your audience. The reader is presumably a decision-maker with limited knowledge of the issue and who has little time to contemplate the methods of analysis. The validity of your findings will be determined primarily by your reader's determination that your policy recommendations and supporting action items are realistic and rooted in sound reasoning. Review your memo and make sure the statement about how you gathered the data is brief and concise. If necessary, technical issues or raw data can be included in an appendix.

5.  Minimize Subjective Reasoning . Although the memo should be persuasive, avoid emphasizing your personal opinion about the topic. A policy memo should be written in a professional tone with recommendations based upon empirical reasoning while, at the same time, reflecting a level of passion about your topic. However, being passionate does not imply being opinionated. The memo should emphasize presenting all of the facts a reader would need to reach their own conclusions about the validity of your recommendations.

6.  Use of Non-textual Elements . It is common for policy memos to include data, statistics, and other types of information that require visualization. Review all tables, charts, figures, graphs, photographs, and other non-textual elements and make sure they are labeled correctly. Examine each in relation to the text, making sure they are described adequately and that they relate to the overall content of your memo. If these elements are located in appendices, make sure descriptive references to them within the text are correct [i.e., reference to Figure 2 is actually the table you want the reader to look at].

Bardach, Eugene and Eric M. Pataschnik. A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem-Solving . 5th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2016; Herman, Luciana. Policy Memos. John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard University; How to Write a Public Policy Memo. Student Learning Center. University of California, Berkeley; Memo: Audience and Purpose. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Policy Memo Requirements and Guidelines, 2012-2013 edition. Institute for Public Policy Studies. University of Denver; Wilcoxen, Peter J. Tips on Writing a Policy Memo. PAI 723, Economics for Public Decisions Course Syllabus. Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

Writing Tip

Difference Between a Policy Memo and a Policy Brief

A policy memo and a policy brief share much in common. They both describe the rationale for choosing particular policy alternatives or courses of action, they both contain persuasive language, and both documents are written for non-experts, such as, practitioners, politicians, non-governmental agency workers, lobbyists, and others who work on or regularly make decisions about the issue addressed in the document. Both documents are free of jargon or technical terminology and focus on communicating the practical implications of prior policy research to a specific audience based on available evidence.

Ironically, however, a policy memo is typically shorter in length than a policy “brief.” A policy memo usually ranges from one to twenty-five pages, while a policy brief can be anywhere from twenty to more than a hundred pages in length depending on the complexity of the topic. Therefore:

  • A policy brief is commonly produced in response to a request from a decision-maker concerning an issue that requires more thorough information to address the underlying policy problem or they are produced by an advocacy group or organization for the purpose of influencing a specific policy, often in an urgent tone. Non-textual elements , such as, figures, charts, graphs, or diagrams, are often included.
  • A policy memo is concisely written and presents information, ideas, and recommendations clearly so the reader can quickly scan the document for the most relevant points. Policy memos focus on brevity and often synthesize existing evidence in language that is direct, specific, and with minimal background information or historical context. Non-textual elements are only included if necessary.

Guide to Writing an Effective Policy Memo. Leadership for Educational Equity, New York; Policy Briefs. The Writing Center, University of North Carolina;  Policy Memo. Writing Studio, Duke University; Manny, Karoline. What is a Policy Brief/Memo? Grace Doherty Library, Centra College; Sajedinejad, S., et al. From Research to Impact: A Toolkit for Developing Effective Policy Briefs . Toronto, Ontario: Policy Bench. Fraser Mustard Institute of Human Development, University of Toronto, 2021.

Another Writing Tip

Citing Sources

Policy memos generally do not include extensive footnotes, endnotes, further readings, or a bibliography. However, if you use supporting information in a memo, cite the source in the text. For example, you may refer to a study that supported a specific assertion by referencing it in the following manner: "A study published in 2012 by the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling showed that public opinion towards China was....” However, some assignments may require a formal list of references. Before writing your memo, be sure you are clear about how your professor wants you to cite any sources referred to in your analysis.

Policy Memo. Thompson Writing Program, Writing Studio. Duke University.

Yet Another Writing Tip

Using Non-Textual Elements

Policy memos are not just text-based but frequently include numeric tables and charts or other non-textual elements, such as photographs, maps, and illustrations. However, it is important that you use non-textual elements judiciously and only in relation to supplementing and clarifying arguments made in the text so as not to distract the reader from the main points of your memo . As with any non-textual elements, describe what the reader is seeing and why the data is important to understanding the policy problem.

Still Yet Another Writing Tip

Including Appendices

The purpose of an appendix is to provide supplementary material that is not an essential part of the main text but which may be helpful in providing the reader with more complete information. If you have information that is vital to understanding an issue discussed in the memo, it can be included in one or more appendices. However, if you have a lot of information, don't write a five page memo and include twenty pages of appendices. Memos are intended to be  succinct and clearly expressed. If there is a lot of data, refer to the source and summarize it, or discuss with your professor how it should be included.

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Standard memos are divided into segments to organize the information and to help achieve the writer's purpose.

Heading Segment

The heading segment follows this general format:

Make sure you address the reader by his or her correct name and job title. You might call the company president "Maxi" on the golf course or in an informal note, but "Rita Maxwell, President" would be more appropriate for a formal memo. Be specific and concise in your subject line. For example, "Clothes" as a subject line could mean anything from a dress code update to a production issue. Instead use something like, "Fall Clothes Line Promotion."

Opening Segment

The purpose of a memo is usually found in the opening paragraph and includes: the purpose of the memo, the context and problem, and the specific assignment or task. Before indulging the reader with details and the context, give the reader a brief overview of what the memo will be about. Choosing how specific your introduction will be depends on your memo plan style. The more direct the memo plan, the more explicit the introduction should be. Including the purpose of the memo will help clarify the reason the audience should read this document. The introduction should be brief: approximately the length of a short paragraph.

The context is the event, circumstance, or background of the problem you are solving. You may use a paragraph or a few sentences to establish the background and state the problem. Oftentimes it is sufficient to use the opening of a sentence to completely explain the context, such as,

Include only what your reader needs, but be sure it is clear.

Task Segment

One essential portion of a memo is the task statement where you should describe what you are doing to help solve the problem. If the action was requested, your task may be indicated by a sentence opening like,

If you want to explain your intentions, you might say,

Include only as much information as is needed by the decision-makers in the context, but be convincing that a real problem exists. Do not ramble on with insignificant details. If you are having trouble putting the task into words, consider whether you have clarified the situation. You may need to do more planning before you're ready to write your memo. Make sure your purpose-statement forecast divides your subject into the most important topics that the decision-maker needs.

Summary Segment

If your memo is longer than a page, you may want to include a separate summary segment. However, this section is not necessary for short memos and should not take up a significant amount of space. This segment provides a brief statement of the key recommendations you have reached. These will help your reader understand the key points of the memo immediately. This segment may also include references to methods and sources you have used in your research.

Discussion Segments

The discussion segments are the longest portions of the memo, and are the parts in which you include all the details that support your ideas. Begin with the information that is most important. This may mean that you will start with key findings or recommendations. Start with your most general information and move to your specific or supporting facts. (Be sure to use the same format when including details: strongest to weakest.) The discussion segments include the supporting ideas, facts, and research that back up your argument in the memo. Include strong points and evidence to persuade the reader to follow your recommended actions. If this section is inadequate, the memo will not be as effective as it could be.

Closing Segment

After the reader has absorbed all of your information, you want to close with a courteous ending that states what action you want your reader to take. Make sure you consider how the reader will benefit from the desired actions and how you can make those actions easier. For example, you might say,

Necessary Attachments

Make sure you document your findings or provide detailed information whenever necessary. You can do this by attaching lists, graphs, tables, etc. at the end of your memo. Be sure to refer to your attachments in your memo and add a notation about what is attached below your closing, like this:

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Business growth

Business tips

How to write a memo (and all the templates and examples you could need)

A hero image of an orange document icon on a light yellow background.

Memos are the unsung heroes of business communication and, ironically, a Hollywood tool used to patch over glaring plot holes that 12 writers in a room couldn't figure out. I'm no seasoned Hollywood critic, but "Didn't you get the memo?" must be one of the most overused catalyst phrases in cinematic history.

In business applications, memos are simple documents that briefly and accurately convey internal communications in a way that lengthy reports can't. The whole idea is to highlight important or urgent information in a digestible format.

Contrary to common belief, memos aren't always written on sticky notes and don't always fix bad screenwriting. But they do facilitate internal communication in a unique way that has kept them present in the business world for decades running.

Table of contents:

What is a memorandum (memo)?

A memo is a concise written message that communicates important information like directives, updates, announcements, or policy changes. While a report includes context, conclusions, and detailed information, a memo briefly highlights a specific point whenever you just need to hit the broad strokes quickly and get a head start on any urgent internal developments.

I like to think of sirens as the memo and the police officer at my window as the full report. The former does a great job of alerting me to my shortcomings as a driver, and the latter lets me know exactly how. 

How to write a memo

Pop culture would have you believe that you need sticky notes or tiny cards to write a memo. Giving credit where it's due, "The Office" managed to do its part to dispel the stereotype, and I'm sure all memo enthusiasts are ever thankful for the effort.

While there's no restriction on the size or color of the paper you use, the font, or background colors you feel are most soothing for urgent news, there's a memo format that helps this message provide all the information it's intended to deliver and remain brief at the same time. 

I'd like to demystify yet another business tool that Hollywood just decided to overwork for three decades and show you how to write a memo in four easy steps.

1. Write a clear and concise heading 

Your heading makes it clear who the memo is from, who it's for, and what it relates to, as well as the date of its distribution. A well-written heading identifies the parties the message is meant for and the main topic of conversation.

TO: Sales staff

FROM: John Daxler

DATE: 02/10/2024

SUBJECT: Shipping policy changes

2. Include a simple introduction

Your introduction should take up the first two or three sentences of the memo's body. This is where you provide context, summarizing the subject and pointing out the purpose of the message.

Considering the response we've received from customers regarding our shipping policies, we're making some changes to accommodate our users and facilitate future transactions. These policy changes will be implemented on 03/01/2024.

3. Write a body that accurately captures your message 

With the introduction providing just enough context for the reader to understand the point of the memo, it's time to focus on providing a bit more detail. 

Start by making a list of any resources, contact points, or action items that relate to the matter at hand. Outline these details in the body, so your team knows what to do next.

The policy changes include reduced shipping fees in most categories and a new order return process. We anticipate that with these changes, there will be more efforts to recruit sales personnel and expand our team.

For reference, see the detailed report of these policy changes as well as the new fee change guidelines attached.

4. Conclude with a professional closing statement

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me or Clarissa Jones via email or Zoom Chat. We're happy to support you however we can as the new policy goes into effect.

5 memo templates to get you started

Policy change memo.

Screenshot of Zapier's policy change memo template on an orange background

This memo template contains a section dedicated to the policy change's most important details, like an outline of the previous policy, a brief description of the new policy, and the date that the change goes into effect. This information should always be shared first to clearly communicate the change.

The second section of the body contains the reason for the policy change and some context regarding the expected impact on employees and the next steps.

Tip: Outline the previous policy details in the memo, so readers can easily identify the changes.

Meeting agenda memo

Screenshot of Zapier's meeting agenda memo template on an orange background

This memo template focuses on breaking down a meeting into easily digestible bullet points that outline the structure of the meeting and briefly explain each topic of conversation. This helps keep your team aligned, organized, and focused, so the meeting can be as productive as possible.

Tip: Provide your team with a timeline for submissions ahead of the meeting to allow time for creative contributions.

Progress report memo

Screenshot of Zapier's progress report memo template on an orange background

Progress report memos often come across as any report would. The difference is in the amount of detail and context included in the document. A progress report memo shouldn't delve too deep into the nitty-gritty of your hard-earned retainer—it should concisely highlight key achievements.

Tip: Use the "Challenges encountered" section to keep your team in the loop regarding difficulties that need to be considered for upcoming milestones or future progress report memos. 

Instructional memo

Screenshot of Zapier's instructional memo template on an orange background

Instructional memos can be very helpful when a new process is implemented or when a new hire needs to be informed about how to accomplish a certain task. This memo is a step-by-step guide at its core.

Tip: Make sure to provide more detailed resources or training materials that further elaborate on the contents of the memo.

Request memo

Screenshot of Zapier's request memo template on an orange background

Request memos are one of the most popular types of memos and are used for both internal and external communication. For example, an employee could use a request memo to seek additional resources for a project or approval to attend a training event. A business can also send a request memo to a supplier requesting a quote for services or goods.

Tip: Since it's a request, make sure your memo provides enough context and background information to be as persuasive as needed. 

Business memo examples in action

I realize that memos aren't the most cinematic item on anyone's mind, but I'm determined to go the extra mile that movies will not and show you what a memo looks like in practice.

Office closure memo

Illustrated example of an office closure memo on a light peach background

Depending on where you live, this might be a familiar sight. I've worked in tropical weather for the majority of my career, so this particular memo is just a bizarre mythical thing that I deny exists on Reddit threads.

If such a thing existed, it would efficiently highlight the issue, the solution, and most importantly, the dates it pertains to. In this example, the date in question is mentioned three times. 

Company event memo

Illustrated example of a company event memo on a light peach background

Memos for team events and company picnics generally read like an invitation, with the event details highlighted at the very beginning of the document. This way, your team will already be putting together a plan to keep Matthew away from the grill 10 seconds into reading the memo.

PTO policy change memo

Illustrated example of a PTO policy change memo on a light peach background

This example of a policy change memo is long compared to what you might expect, but given the topic, it's imperative to provide as much context as possible before people start banging on your door with pitchforks to talk about PTO.

The way it's presented reflects exactly what the change is about and shows employees it's a positive adjustment that warrants absolutely no pitchforks on company grounds.

Strategy meeting agenda memo

Illustrated example of a strategy meeting agenda memo on a light peach background

Tips for using memo templates effectively

While a template can help you write a well-structured memo, it's important to make it your own. Be it the writing style, the visual aspect, or the information itself, business communication is most effective when it's personalized.

Incorporate your brand: You can use your company logo and unique brand colors or themes.

Ensure consistency in memo writing: As memos become a part of your communication processes, it's important to be consistent in how they're written and presented.

Implement a review and revision process: Reduce the chances of errors and typos by having a reviewer proofread your memo and approve its contents.

I've always believed that seamless business communication isn't about copying and pasting a complex system that might not work for your company. It's more about making the most of available communication tools and channels until they naturally develop into a system that serves your needs.

Will you be annoyed every time a coworker says, "Did you get the memo?" Yes, you will be. Will it be time-consuming to keep up with this form of business communication? Also yes. But that's a give and take every business reaches in its own time. 

Related reading:

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Hachem Ramki

Hachem is a writer and digital marketer from Montreal. After graduating with a degree in English, Hachem spent seven years traveling around the world before moving to Canada. When he's not writing, he enjoys Basketball, Dungeons and Dragons, and playing music for friends and family.

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    2. The second purpose a proposal memo has is that it provides a solution to the stated problem or issue. It describes any supporting ideas that give way to resolving the issue. 3. Lastly, a proposal memo brings about a call to action. It entices the recipient, in its best interests, to take action in resolving the issue.

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    1. Write a clear and concise heading. Your heading makes it clear who the memo is from, who it's for, and what it relates to, as well as the date of its distribution. A well-written heading identifies the parties the message is meant for and the main topic of conversation. Example.

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