Anda di halaman 1dari 17

SURVIVAL GUIDE

for
Business Memos and Email

Ethos Business Communications Group

updated May 2016

Professional Image for Business Memos and Emails


It is very important that your messages convey an appropriate professional
image for you and your team, department, unit, division, etc. Others in your
organization will make assumptions about you based on the professional image
of your memos and emails.
Basics to remember:
1. Accuracy of details
Be sure that you have checked and double-checked the accuracy of your
message. In addition to checking names, dates, and numbers, be sure
that you have all of your facts straight and that any supporting details you
have offered are accurate. Make sure there are no spelling errors. Spelling
errors make you appear less intelligent and less detail-oriented. Such
errors can also cause reader confusion.
2. Salutations and Signature Blocks are for letters and emails (not memos)
Salutations are meant to personalize messages and signature blocks are
meant to provide identifying information about writers.
Memos do not begin with a salutation (Hi Jim, Dear Jenny, Dear Mr.
Jones, Hello Everyone, Dear All Employees, etc.).
Instead, jump directly into your message after the Information Field at the
top of the memo, skipping any salutation.
For letters, you should have a formal salutation (Dear Ms. Jones:). If you
know your reader well and have a strong relationship with that person, you
might choose a less formal salutation (Dear Nancy,).
In an email, an informal salutation is the most common way to start the
message (Hi John. Hello Nancy.). End your email salutation with a
period for the punctuation (not a comma). Avoid using the word Dear in
an email salutation, as it is very formal (and normally associated with
business letters). You can also work the name of the recipient naturally
into the first sentence (Here are the files you requested, John.). When
you are writing email to people you know very wellespecially people with
whom you have very strong, positive relationshipsyou can omit the
salutation entirely, as they are not likely to be offended by a lack of
salutation. They will recognize your choice as one of efficiency, especially

Ethos Business Communications Group

in situations where you are writing several emails back in forth in a short
time span.
You should also omit email salutations when you are writing an email that
is being sent to a mass email distribution list (e.g. a company-wide email).
When you are writing to a smaller group (e.g. a team), you could use a
less formal salutation (Hi team.) If the email is going to 2-3 people, you
could use their names in the salutation line (Hi Tim, Nancy, and Wang.)
In memo writing, you do not sign your name at the bottom of the
document. This is unnecessary because your name and title already
appear at the top of the page in the Information Field. Formal signature
blocks are for business letters and emails. Only letters will carry your
actual signature signed in ink, as this carries legal significance.
In an email, you can sign your name with just your first name (at the end
of your message), as it will be followed below by your first name, last
name, and other identifying details in your automatically generated email
signature block.
3. Multi-page memos
Most memos are one page in length or shorter. However, in the rare
instance that your memo goes beyond one page, do not manipulate the
font size, typeface, or margins to artificially force your memo onto one
page. If you can, revise the content of the memo to one page. However, if
there is a need for substantial secondary/supporting detail in your memo
and you feel the memo needs to be more than one page, go to two pages
and be sure to paginate the second page (put the page number at the top
of the page).

Ethos Business Communications Group

The Information Field of a Memo:


The Information Field is the area above the text of the message. This area
contains important information that helps the reader prioritize the message. This
area may or may not be visually separated from the memo text by a line or partial
line (see pp. 15-17).
To line:
cc line:
bcc line:

From line:
Date line:
Subject or Re line:

Identifies the primary audience.


Identifies secondary audience(s) who have received a
copy of the memo.
When this appears on a memo, it indicates that the
person who received this copy was copied in secret.
That is, the primary audience and any other
secondary audience are unaware that this person
received a copy.
Identifies the sender (optional to initial this line in ink).
Identifies the date the document is sent.
Flags the memos content for the reader.

--There is no definitive order for the To, cc, bcc, From, Date, and Subject lines,
but the Subject line must always come last. The cc and bcc lines are optional and
are only included when a secondary audiences are being copied on the message
in some form (either publicly or privately/secretly).
--Use balanced white space and tabs to maximize a memos readability. There
must be at least one line of blank space between each section of the Information
Field. One line of blank space between each section is the convention norm, as it
provides balanced white space on the page and improves the memos
readability.
--Use job titles for the audience and sender in formal situations (i.e. when sender
is writing in his/her official capacity).
--Align job titles on the line directly below the names instead of on the same line
as the names. Putting the titles below the names shortens each line, thereby
improving readability. Follow the format demonstrated in the three memo
examples at the end of this Survival Guide (pp. 15-17) for arranging names and
titles in a readable way.
--The cc (copied to) line can either go in the information field below the To line
(see page 16 of this Survival Guide) or it can go below the end of the memo
message, itself (p. 15 of this Survival Guide). If you put your cc line at the bottom
of your memo, there should be one or two blank lines between that cc line and
the last line of the memo.

Ethos Business Communications Group

Do not cc people frivolously. That is, dont just automatically and unnecessarily
send copies to people (even if they were ccd on a message you are responding
to). People will be annoyed with you if you send them messages they dont need
or they are not interested in.
The bcc (blind carbon copied) line is used when you do not want the primary
audience or other secondary audiences to know that other people are receiving
copies or when you are sending an email to a large number of people, but do not
want the recipients to know who else received the message (e.g. for privacy of
email addresses). For instance, if you send an email to a client and bcc your
boss, this means that your boss will get a copy of the email (and her copy will be
marked bcc), but the client will think that the email went only to him/her. There
will be no bcc notation on this copy.
Use the bcc line very sparingly, as transparency is extremely important for RQ
and some readers may become upset if they learn that you have been sending
messages to them while secretly sending copies to others. If you use a bcc line
in a memo, put it below the cc (with 1-2 blank lines in between) or in the place of
the cc if the memo has no cc line.
--Use clear notation for dates. There are only two ways to write the date in
business correspondence:
January 15, 2016

or

15 January 2016

Do not use numerical abbreviations like 01/15/04, as this can create confusion.
Use cardinal numbers (May 5) instead of ordinal numbers (May 5th).
--Make your subject lines as descriptive and as concise as possible. This applies
to both memos and emails.
--Highlight your memo or letter subject lines using one of the following: bold print,
capital letters, or underline. Using bold print to highlight subject lines is the most
common convention. Do not use italics to highlight a subject line, however. Italics
actually take letters and put them on an angle, making italicized words more
difficult to read quickly.
NOTE:

Email subject lines are not highlighted unless your organization has an internal
system for flagging messages with priority colours or flags. The subject line
content should be descriptive enough to help the reader prioritize it.

Ethos Business Communications Group

The Body of Memos and Email:


--Keep your memos and emails focused on a single topic. Emails can be very
short, even just one or two sentences, or one paragraph in length. The maximum
length for an email is 20-25 lines of text (or one screen shot). You create
resistance in your reader when the reader has to use the scroll bar.
--If you are writing to inform, explain, or create good will, use the Direct-ByDesign approach (i.e. begin immediately with the main purpose) outlined on p. 11
of this Survival Guide.
--Use a size 12 typeface and Times New Roman font for memos and the default
settings in your email.
--Do not indent your paragraphs. Use left justification of margins only (not right
or full justification). All three examples at the end of this Survival Guide use
left justification.
--For both memos and email, single space within your paragraphs and double
space between paragraphs. Double spacing between paragraphs means that
there is one blank line of space between paragraphs. Double-check your default
settings if you are using the newest version of WORD or if you are using the
Chinese version of WORD.
--Write in grammatically complete sentences and in paragraph form. In email and
memos, paragraphs can be as short as one sentence.
--Make sure that you use natural paragraph breaks and that your paragraphs are
both unified and coherent.
--When referring to numbers in your message, double-check them for accuracy.
In general, numbers from 1-10 should be written out in words (e.g. one, two,
three, etc.). Numbers greater than 10 should use figures (e.g. 12, 13, 14, etc.).
Numbers at the beginning of a sentence are always written as words. Consult the
following resource from the Purdue Online Writing Lab for rules and exceptions in
the use of numbers: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/593/01/

Ethos Business Communications Group

--Use lists, headings, and formal or informal tables, as appropriate, to improve


readability. Remember to use these visual devices sparingly and only when they
are required to improve readability. See p. 17 of this Survival Guide for the
effective use of an informal table.
If you only have two or three items to list, use a horizontal list.
Example: The recommendations must satisfy three criteria: environmental
sustainability, feasibility, and creativity.
When you use vertical bullet lists in your writing, remember the following rules:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Use a list only when the list improves readability


Keep lists grammatically parallel
Keep list items concise
Keep lists short (maximum 4-6 list items)
Introduce the list with a complete sentence followed by a colon
Number your list when you want to indicate priority or where such
numbering will help with referencing

Use an informal table (see p. 17) when a bullet list will be insufficient to relay the
information in a concise, readable way. Such a table will use headings
(highlighted), columns, and white space to improve readability.
In contrast, a formal table will use horizontal and vertical lines to visually
separate rows and columns. Such tables will be labeled, numbered, and formally
introduced in the text. It is uncommon to find formal tables in the body of a
memo, email, or letter, as formal tables are chosen to present a large amount of
detail. A large table will undermine the coherence of short documents like
memos, emails, and letters. They are more commonly found in reports,
proposals, business plans, etc.
Use an informal table when you have 5 or fewer rows of information. Use a
formal table when you have more than 5 rows.
--Do not put negative points in a list, as it will create resistance in your audience.
Also, avoid putting persuasive points in a list, as you cannot layer much
complexity.
--The only list items that might have punctuation at the line endings would be
complete sentences, but the punctuation is optional even then (see above list).
However, if your bullet points are sentence-length, the list item may not satisfy
Criteria #3 above.

Ethos Business Communications Group

--Avoid the use of highlighting within the text of your memo, email, or letter, as
such highlighting can cause a reader to skim a message and to take points outof-context, leading to misunderstanding or miscommunication.
Your Conclusions:
--Provide direct contact numbers whenever you can in case the reader needs to
follow-up with questions or concerns.
--Whenever possible, end on a positive, forward-looking note.
--Depending on the circumstances, you might request follow-up action, set
deadlines, etc., unless the deadline was already specified in the introduction due
to urgency.
--If you are attaching / enclosing any other documents with your memo, include
an enclosure notation at the bottom of your memo. Leave one or two blank lines
between the end of your memo and the enclosure notation. If you are including a
cc line at the bottom of your memo, position the enclosure line below the cc line,
leaving 1-2 blank lines between them.
You can use the words enclosure and attachment interchangeably for your
enclosure notation. Also, your enclosure notation can indicate the number of
enclosures or even specify what is enclosed.
Examples of acceptable enclosure/ attachment notations include the following:
Enclosure
Attachment
Enclosures
Attachments
Enclosures (2)
Attachments (3)
Enclosure: 2016 Budget Estimates
Attachment: Professional Development Reimbursement Form
Do not use attachments or enclosures when the information can easily be
included in the actual email, memo, or letter. An attachment or enclosure is just
one more potential barrier between your message and the audiences
understanding of that message. If you have a significant amount of extra
information to provide, other documents, or forms that must accompany an email,
memo, or letter, enclosures or attachments are both appropriate and useful.

Ethos Business Communications Group

Email Best Practices and Etiquette


When you think about what makes a good email good, think about what your
expectations are as a reader. What do you appreciate about a well-written email?
In contrast, what annoys or infuriates you about email? What will make you stop
reading or even avoid reading an email?
Analyze your writing environment and use your perspective-taking skills to
anticipate and address your audiences needs.
Consider the following highlights of best practices and etiquette for effective
business email.
Email Best Practices:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Use a clear, concise, informative subject line.


Attach attachments first and address your email last.
Keep your email as concise as possible (maximum: 20-25 lines of text).
Be direct. Put your purpose for writing at the beginning of your email and
use the rest of the email to provide supporting information.
5. Be clear about actions and deadlines.
6. Use natural paragraph breaks. Dont be concerned if your email has only
one or two short paragraphs or even just one or two sentences.
7. Target an appropriate level of information for your audience and context.
8. Consider efficiency and reader needs when using cc or using the Reply
All option. Only cc people or use Reply All when the audiences need to
be included in messages. If they do not need to be included, you are
wasting their time, undermining efficiency, and possibly hurting your
relationships. Use the same thinking when considering whether to forward
an email to someone or whether to create, continue, or invite someone to
join an email message string.
9. Be selective with attachments when you send them. When you do send an
attachment, make reference to it in the text of your email, and make sure
you attach it. Also, make sure that your audience knows what to do with /
how to use the attachment (if it may not be obvious to them). If sending
large attachments, compress them / ZIP them so they are more recipientfriendly. When sending such large attachments, give your reader advance
warning and request a confirmation of receipt.
10. Avoid the use of highlighting and do not use full caps in either the subject
or the text of the email.
11. Do not use email to avoid uncomfortable or difficult discussions.
12. Avoid using email when trying to resolve conflict or disagreements.

Ethos Business Communications Group

Email Etiquette:
1. Use a positive, courteous, and respectful tone. Whenever possible, be
proactive and constructive.
2. Reply to emails within 24-48 hrs, If you are replying to a request for
information or action and it is impossible to comply within that time frame,
then within 24-48 hrs respond and give them a status update or adjust
their expectations (i.e. What deadline can you reasonably hit?).
3. Use Plain English to make your message as accessible as possible to the
reader.
4. Do not send messages that convey anger or that publicly criticize
someone. For example, dont send a disciplinary message to a member of
your team and cc it to the rest of the team. See Email Best Practices
Points 11 and 12.
5. Dont use emoticons. They are unprofessional and can create confusion.
6. Show respect for your audiences time (see Email Best Practices Point 8).
7. If you do forward a message or email string to someone, add some brief
context or a concise summary to the beginning of the message so that
your reader has the option of not reading the entire message or string
unless they need a granular level of detail.
8. Dont automatically include the previous message when you reply to
someone. A well-written email can summarize a previous message or
context so that the reply email can be more concise and uncluttered.
9. Be respectful of privacy, confidentiality, and copyrights.
10. Begin a new message (rather than replying to an old one) when beginning
a new topic.

Ethos Business Communications Group

10

Adapt the Direct-by-Design Approach for Managing Information

Introduction (first paragraph of your messageprimary information)


n Frontload your purpose, making it clear why you are writing (this is your
primary information).
n If your audience will require context to make sense of your purpose,
provide such context briefly to orient your audience.
n Announce any primary action or action requests.
n If there is an urgency for action, frontload the deadline. If the deadline is
not urgent, put it in your concluding paragraph.
n If your main purpose is to convey a directive, do it here.
n Set the tone of the message. Consider whether you must go beyond the
baseline tone (courteous, respectful, and positive).
n If you think that your audience might be resistant before they even begin
to read your message, do something in your introduction that will begin
shaping the audience reaction in a more positive way.
n If possible (and context-appropriate), begin by addressing the audiences
needs, concerns, and/or priorities.
Body (one or more paragraphs between your introduction and conclusion
secondary information)
n Provide secondary / supporting details, explanations, clarifications,
information, etc.
n Be as detailed as possible to improve your chances of eliciting a useful
response.
n Address relevant audience information needs. Detail any supporting
information the reader may need to perform a task, fulfill a request for
information, etc.
n Use bullets, headings, or tables to improve accessibility/readability as
needed. However, only use such visual devices if they are needed and do
not overuse them.
Conclusion (one or two short paragraphs at the end of your message)
n Set any deadlines (as needed) and provide reasonable explanations for
those deadlines. If there is urgency around deadlines, however, this
information should be frontloaded in the Introduction.
n Give clear instructions if follow-up action is required.
n Provide contact numbers when appropriate.
n Close on a positive, forward-looking note when possible.

Ethos Business Communications Group

11

4Basics Review: Is your Writing Ethical?


The following list details characteristics commonly associated with unethical
actions and decisions:
One or more of the stakeholders involved is treated unfairly
A lack of transparency exists to keep some stakeholders at a strategic
disadvantage
Someone is being manipulated, bullied, intimidated, or otherwise
threatened
Intentionally inaccurate presentation of circumstances or motives
An atmosphere of confrontation and suspicion is created, turning
stakeholders against one another so that someone can take advantage of
a person, a situation, or an opportunity
Someone is abused, neglected, or ignored
Someone avoids responsibility or liability
Information or the nature of a situation are intentionally misrepresented,
hidden, or otherwise suppressed
Financial damage, personal injury, or significant loss of reputation is
inflicted on another person or company
Deliberate ambiguity, equivocation, and evasiveness is present, so that
something can be denied later
Intentional misrepresentation of statistics, opinions, or some other kind of
evidence
Artificial urgency is created to rush someone into a decision or otherwise
manipulate them
Withholding information from someone to undermine that persons claim
or position or to manipulate a decision
Credit is taken for someone elses work or success
At the end of the day, you need to make a decision about what kind of business
person you want to be. If you decide that being ethical is a value that you respect
and aspire to, you must be accountable and take whatever steps you can to
ensure that your writing reflects that value. You need to be ready to stand up for
those values and argue in their defense, especially when those values are in
conflict with what may be happening around you in the office.

Ethos Business Communications Group

12

4Basics Review: Is your Writing Accurate?


Common instances where inaccurate information might cause serious problems
include the following:
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o

Names, dates, and numerical figures


Details around bank or wire transfers
Account, phone, and room numbers
Timelines and itineraries
Email addresses
Mathematical calculations
Summary of a problem, conversation, situation, or set of circumstances
Projections, estimates, and financial forecasts
Faulty inferences and assumptions
Misinterpreting a situation or misunderstanding the significance of
contributing factors
Misinterpreting and/or mischaracterizing someones actions, intentions,
communication or expectations, issues, problems, and motives
Overstatement of benefits / value-added
Understatement of risk
Misremembering factual events
Intentional lying and/or misdirection

4Basics Review: Is your Writing Clear?


In general, keep in mind the following tips to keep your writing clear:
Use language and phasing that is unambiguous
Be specific and concrete whenever you can (vs vague and abstract)
Use Plain English whenever possible
Avoid doing anything that creates a barrier between your meaning and
your audiences understanding of your meaning
o Follow business writing conventions
o Write using unified and coherent paragraphs to improve the accessibility
of your writing
o When paragraph form would be difficult to read due the type or amount of
information, instead use bullets, headings, formal/informal tables and/or
columns to improve accessibility/readability as needed
o
o
o
o

Ethos Business Communications Group

13

4Basics Review: Is your Writing Concise?


In general, keep in mind the following tips to keep your writing concise:
o Keep your document as short as possible, while still meeting the
information needs of the audience
o Include primary and secondary information, but not unnecessary
information
o If an audience already has information, do not give it to them again
o Think very carefully about what you know about your audience so that you
can reliably assume what information they will need
o Avoid wordy and/or redundant phrasing

Action (AQ) in Messages:


To ensure that you demonstrate strong AQ in your messages, use the following
checklist to help you plan your document before you take action, announce
action, or request action from others.
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o

Action and the scope of the action are clearly defined


Action is ethical
Action is consistent with organizational values
Action is consistent with organizational priorities
Action goal is achievable
Action is practical
Action is feasible
Action is cost-efficient
Action is necessary (not gratuitous)
Rationale behind the action is sound
Rationale behind the action is transparent (when appropriate)
Action deadlines are reasonable and transparent
Action is supported with detail as needed
Ownership of the action is clearly assigned to establish accountability
Support is provided to the person taking the action (as necessary)
Action being taken is appropriate and/or proportional for the context
Action is free of collateral consequences
If action results in collateral consequences, those collateral consequences
can be justified and/or mitigated
Action requires a one-time commitment of resources
Action requires an ongoing commitment of resources
Action will create resistance
If action will create resistance, that resistance can be mitigated

Ethos Business Communications Group

14

DIRECT MEMO SAMPLE 1

(Giving Information)

MEMO

To:

Casey Dorin
Executive Director
Undergraduate Program

From:

Kevin Stewart
Coordinator
Beedie Writing Mentorship Program

Date:

January 15, 2014

Re:

Update on Mentor Recruitment and Training (2014-01)

________________________________________________________________
The recruitment drive for 2014-01 is now complete and training is underway. We
have selected four new mentors for the term. All of the candidates have
exceptional language and writing skills and will have an immediate and positive
impact on the team. We will have a total of eleven mentors working this term as a
result of the new selections.
Training began last week and will continue daily until the program officially begins
for the term on January 26, 2014.
I have enclosed here the projected estimates for volunteer hours for this
semester.
If you have any questions about the program or you would like to observe one of
the training sessions, call me at extension 5410.
cc:

Mary Watson
Student Services Manager

Enclosure: Projected Estimates (Volunteer Hours)

Ethos Business Communications Group

15

DIRECT MEMO SAMPLE 2

(Giving Information)

MEMO
To:

Krista Wong
Human Resources Manager

cc:

Nick Price
Human Resources Coordinator

bcc:

Ami Sidhu
CFO

From:

Bob Singh
Human Resources Specialist

Date:

March 15, 2014

Re:

Your Information Request about Leadership Training at SFU

____________________
As you requested at last weeks team meeting, I contacted the SFU Segal School
of Business to gather information about their leadership program and to gauge
SFUs interest in partnering with us to offer an intensive weekend leadership
retreat for our senior managers.
I spoke to Darren Marks, Executive Director of Segals Executive Education
Program. He is interested in meeting to discuss this idea further.
I have reviewed all of the information we have regarding our previous education
partners and I have compiled a chart comparing costs, availability, and training
approaches to help inform your decision. I have enclosed the chart here and I
can send you an electronic version if you need one.
Please let me know if you would like to meet to discuss the chart or any other
aspect of the research I have completed. I leave for the Montreal conference on
March 18, but I am available to meet anytime before then.
If you decide to further explore a partnership with SFU, let me know and I will
arrange a meeting with Darren Marks.
Enclosure: University Comparison Chart

Ethos Business Communications Group

16

DIRECT MEMO SAMPLE 3

(Using an Informal Table)

MEMO

To:

Andrew Gemino
Associate Dean
Undergraduate Program

From:

Kevin Stewart
Chair
CIAC Subgroup

Date:

January 15, 2016

Re:

Update on Faculty Consultation Process

________________________________________________________________
We have moved into Phase 2 of our consultation process. The interim report has
been distributed to all stakeholders and faculty meetings have been arranged
using the times you had available in your calendar.
The consultation meeting schedule is as follows:
Date

Faculty Member

Campus

Room Location

January 21
January 26
February 4
February 8

Jane Willows
Pete Wong
Betty Bashir
Darren Wilkie

Segal
Segal
Burnaby
Surrey

SGL 3211
SGL 2422
WMC 2243
SUR 5010

I will have the final report ready for review by February 21.

Ethos Business Communications Group

17