Matthew W Ford
Memo Format (Updated 08/21/2013 10:40 AM)
All written work should be submitted in memo format. Multi-page memos need to be stapled. Not clipped. Not folded near the top. Stapling ensures pages stay together--plus it makes reports easier to stack.
Common to all memos is a "memorandum top" which includes:
All written work should include a memorandum top using headings similar to the above. For all written work except case-based assignments, you can proceed using any format that you think will be most effective in conveying your message. For example, if you are answering numbered questions, then you might proceed by providing numbered answers. However, for case based assignments, you need to follow a more structured format. For case-based assignments, include the following three primary sections: Introduction, Findings, Discussion. Thse are explained below.
Introduction (or Background)
A couple of sentences that state the problem that you are addressing and what you plan to do about it here. Do not put your conclusions or key findings here--those things go below.
Findingsa.k.a. "Recommendations", "Highlights", "Summary", "Conclusions", or something else with a similar summative tone.
Up to three key points that you want to leave with the reader. Each key point should be a couple of sentences long. All of your findings must be supported by your data and analysis below. If not, then your findings are editorial or opinion--something that you want to avoid in data-driven analysis.
Your final point should be action oriented--what you suggest that the organization does next.
Your findings section must fit on the first page. If there is remaining space at the bottom of page one, use it to begin the Discussion section section.
Your discussion section houses your data and analysis. It should include the following subsections:
Method. Begin with a paragraph that prepares the reader for the analysis to follow. What data will you use and where did you get it? What methods will you use and why are they legitimate/useful? What are the basic steps in your analysis that follows? By informing your reader about these issues, they'll better know what to expect as they read on...
Main Analysis. Now comes the body of your analysis. Analysis is the use of data (whether the data are quantitative or qualitative) to generate results that improve decision-making. Data provide a sense of objectivity and encourage "managing by fact".
What your analysis contains will depend on the specifics of your project. When writing up your analysis in the Discussion section, it is a good idea to use sub section headings, like the boldfaced introductory words used at the beginning of the paragraphs here. This helps you stay organized. It also helps the reader understand what you are doing.
Avoid big blocks of narrative text. Large paragraphs are difficult to read quickly. Better to break up your thoughts into smaller sized chunks.
Data and analysis are often housed in tables or graphs. Place tables and graphs in your analysis close to place where you will discuss them (do not place them at the end of your analysis as attachments). Tables and graphs should have titles and numerical reference (e.g., Table 2: Profit Analysis of Capacity Alternatives; Figure 3: Sales Projections for Asian Markets), and your analysis should make specific reference to each table or graph you have included in your report (e.g., "see Table 2").
You will score more points with your readers if you cite outside work and sources. Citations bring in external perspective that many organizations can use. Footnotes are preferable to endnotes or bibliography sections, as it is more convenient for readers to look down at the bottom of the page for a citation rather than to page to the end of the paper. It saves the reader time--something that almost always wins you points.
Recommendations. Spend a paragraph or two discussing what action you think we should take based on the findings of your study. Usually, you will not be the one with decision-making authority--your readers are usually the decision-makers. However, your readers will be curious about what you think we should next. Think Conservative Next Step (CNS). Your readers will usually be more likely to accept your recommendations if you suggest small, bite-sized changes rather than large, radical changes. If you think that big change is needed, imagine dividing it up into smaller steps and, here, suggest the first step.
Limitations. What are the limitations of your analysis and findings? For example, the data that you use may be incomplete or suspect--you may need to note that to your reader. Indeed, a "Limitations" or similar section may be a chance to impose your superior grasp of the context that frames your project. Your reader will appreciate this.
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