Letters and memos
Application – Preparing informative documents
The precursors to email—letters and memos—although used less often, still have a place. Letters and memos are useful when you need to physically deliver a message or create a stand-alone document.
Generally, you will use memos to communicate within an organization. Memos assume the readers will be familiar with the writer or unconcerned as to the identity of the writer. Therefore, you do not need to introduce yourself in a memo as you would in an email or letter written to someone who does not know you.
Most memos include fields for the subject, date, recipients (To), writer (From), and message. They typically have less than 1,000 words. Longer memos are possible, but once they get past 2 pages, a report usually will better serve the purpose. Best practice is to start long or moderate length memos with a summary and end with a conclusion.
Normally, you will send letters to individual persons. The recipients can be within or outside of the sending organization. Letters take a wide range of content and format and can be any length.
Formal letters typically start with a block of text providing contact information. This is followed by the date and an introductory salutation (Dear Mr./Ms./…). Formal letters end with a closing salutation (Sincerely/Cordially/…), the writer’s signature, name, and title.
Much of the advice provided for emails applies to composing letters:
· Identify yourself at the start when writing to someone who does not know you
· Indicate if action is required
· Be direct, but polite
· Provide context
· Be concise and clear
· Organize your message with section headers if the letter is longer than one page