Pointers for Writing Effective Memos
by Tamara Martfeld
Communication in business is very important.. Minor problems with communication can cause embarrassment, hurt feelings, and confusion. Large communication problems can cost money. I am sharing the following tips to help you identify areas for improvement.
- Make sure you are using the correct word for the communication. Use a dictionary to verify the definitions of the words you are using and make sure they fit your context. Common sets of words which are frequently misused include accept/except, personal/personnel, among/between, its/it’s, and stationary/stationery.
- Keep the correspondence simple, using the most simple language appropriate. Do not try to show off by using big, fancy words. This increases the likelihood of the correspondence being misunderstood, and decreases the probability that you are using words correctly.
- Do not use redundant expressions, such as “each and every”, “whether or not”. or “simple and easy”. Use “each” or “every”, “whether”, and “simple” or “easy”.
- Avoid the use of superlatives, such as “marvelous”, “outstanding”, and “greatest”. These words imply exaggeration.
- Do not use expressions such as “in reference to the above mentioned topic”. State the topic instead. A reader should never have to refer to the topic line while reading the body of correspondence.
- Make sure all your words are spelled correctly. Do not depend on the computer to do this for you. The computer only verifies that a word is real. For example, the computer will accept the following sentence as correct, “You pitcher is a petty as your flour garden.” The sentence should read, “Your picture is as pretty as your flower garden.”
- Avoid the use of clichés.
- Avoid the use of acronyms. Ideally, no more than three acronyms should be used in a given correspondence, and each of these should be clearly identified. The only exception to this guideline is that you know the individual receiving the correspondence and you know that the receiver knows the acronyms. For example, “IRS” is fairly safe to use in correspondence to all IRS employees, but “BCP” is probably not as safe. (One definition of “BCP” is Budget Change Proposal.)
- Do not thank someone for something which has not yet been done. For example, do not “thank someone in advance” for a favor being requested.
- Do not use the phrase “I would like to thank”. If you want to thank someone, then thank the individual instead of telling the individual you would like to thank them. If you would like to thank an individual, why can’t you do so? Was the job done so poorly that you simply cannot bring yourself to say “thank you”?
- Be concise. Use as few words as possible to express your ideas. Try to keep correspondence no longer than one page in length.
I hope that I have helped you to improve your communication skills.