Posted in Assignments, Resources

Memos: General Comments, Guidance and Resources

Some overall comments on your first memos:

  • Audience, context, and purpose are really important when you think about memo writing. It’s a flexible genre. Memos can be used for anything from routine internal communication to proposals and documentation. Think about why and to whom you are writing.
  • Writing good memos is about information design. Information design is concerned with both visual and content design.
    • Memos are designed to be read quickly, and key points should stand out. Think about visual hierarchy when you are writing.
    • Paragraphs should be about one thing at a time. Clear topic sentences, and transitions are important. Most of you would benefit by reverse outlining your memos. Can you identify a topic sentence in each paragraph. Are all the sentences that follow related to that topic? The Purdue OWL has some good resources on how to think about paragraph structure. Pay particular attention to the section titled “How do I know when to start a new paragraph?”
  • Make sure you are making transitions between paragraphs. Subheads can be used to aid transition, but your document should read effectively without them as well. We’ll spend more time on this in the coming weeks.
  • Concise and focused doesn’t mean “short.” Consistent comments on your memos were “tell me more” “give me an example” “explain how, why, or to what extent” or make this concrete and measurable: “how many, how much, how often.”
  • Start thinking about these memos as an opportunity to develop your personal branding. What do you look and sound like (on paper) as a professional writer?

Some general memo conventions to keep in mind:

  1. While memo headings may be double spaced, the body paragraphs of a memo are usually single spaced.
  2. Make sure subject headings are specific enough to serve as documentation. “Memo #1” is only useful to me, and maybe to other students who have read the same assignment, but wouldn’t be useful for archiving. “Summary of readings and progress in weeks 1-4 of 306” Explains clearly what the memo is for.
  3. Even short memos should include an introductory summary. Explain what the memo is for and what can be found in the body of a text. For the 2-page memos I’m asking you for, this should only take you a couple of sentences.




I am a PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition and Purdue University. I currently teach first year composition. My research interests include threshold concepts in composition, invention strategies, service-learning, community engagement, and professional and technical writing.

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