A memorandum is a written statement or record, especially one circulated for the attention of colleagues at work. It relates to a note of something to be remembered. The word memorandum came from the Latin word ‘memorare’ which means to remember. In law, a memorandum means a document recording terms of contract. The plural of memorandum is memorandums or memoranda. It is commonly known by its abbreviation, viz., and memo.
A memorandum is a means of inter-office correspondence. Memos are sent within an organization from office to office or department to department. In large organizations, memorandums are sent from head office to regional offices, branches, divisions and so on.
Memos are intended to be read and acted upon by executives, branch managers, supervisors and all staff members as and when they are addressed to them. Memos may also be referred to as circulars or spiral communication.
Large organizations spread across numerous financial departments and geographical areas regularly issue a variety of memos everyday or at frequent intervals. In a large organization like a bank, there are many departments such as personnel, credit, accounts, marketing, international business, planning and so on and all of them communicate with the branches, offices and staff through memos and such other internal communication.
Memos may be typed or printed and despatched to the target groups and offices across the country and even abroad. For easy reference, memos are often printed in different colours with different departments using specific colours.
With the advent of electronic communication, memos are now bring sent across by e-mail and are also put on the internal network or intranet for the use of offices and staff. Large organizations like banks may also differentiate between memos and circulars and use them for specific messages.
It would be difficult do draw a precise distinction between circulars and memos. Both are often identical in approach and reach. Some organizations use circulars as a means of specific, subject-related instruction whereas memos are used to cover events and developments.
Circular are in the form of instructions or guidelines and are expected to be mandatorily followed. Memos are generally a matter of information. Circulars are of a permanent nature, of long-term relevance and may be modified as and when instructions have to be revised. Memos are generally of short-term relevance. Any such distinction, however, is only a matter of internal arrangement and in most books on business communication there in only a reference to memos and none to circulars.
Memos contain vital details of relevance on functional areas and may have to be referred to frequently by the personnel working in the organization. Due to their importance and reference value, memos are often carefully indexed, filed and preserved, facilitating ready sourcing and reference. Although memos are like business letters there are some noteworthy differences.
i. Memos are addressed to people in general, to groups and to branches and offices. Memos unlike business letters are not addressed to specific individuals.
ii. Unlike a business letter, memorandums do not have (1) salutation (2) complimentary close and (3) signatures.
iii. Memos, like letters, do have a date and a subject, and the name and designation of the authority issuing it. A memo is described as an informal letter without signature.
iv. Memos are used to reach out to offices and employees and convey both information and instructions meant to be acted upon.
In writing a good memo, the following points need particular attention.