A memo is a short piece of text, whose main function is to record important information. The term memo is short for the slightly longer term memorandum, a word of Latin origin which in its initial full form - memorandum est - means 'it is to be remembered', according to the Oxford English Dictionary. A memo is used as an official note inside an organisation or a company.

In terms of the language use of the term, the short version memo works in most situations except for very formal contexts, where the longer term memorandum is preferred. There are different variants of the plural form, with memos for the short term and memoranda or memorandums for the full term being the predominant ones. (The Swedish corresponding term for memo is PM, which is short for promemoria, from Latin pro memoria 'for memory'.)

Traditionally, a memo consists of an initial part called the header, indicating who the sender and the intended receiver is, the date, and a subject line. Then, there is a second part called the message, where the actual information of the memo is provided. This part can vary greatly in style, length and detail, depending on the purpose of the memo. Finally, there may be some sort of closing, but in some cases this is excluded, as is salutations.

In terms of formality, memos are not as formal as letters. Memos vary in format and the way they are sent. Some organisations use standard, printed forms. It should also be noted that it is very common nowadays for memos to be sent in the form of ordinary e-mails. In those cases, the initial section with sender, receiver, date and subject line is integral to the e-mail format.

Click on the links below to see examples of simple memos.

Example: A short memo announcing an upcoming meeting (click to expand/contract)

To:           Visiting scholars in the department
From:       John Sinclair
Date:        13 January, 2011
Subject:    Information meeting

On 28 January there will be an information meeting for all visiting scholars in the department. The meeting will cover things like available funding for conferences and travel, insurance issues and other administrative aspects.

The meeting will take place in room F233 at 10:30 a.m. Since I would like to supply some refreshments (coffee, tea and a roll), please let me know whether you will attend no later than Friday of this week. 

Looking forward to seeing you in the meeting.

Example: A short memo outlining a department procedure (click to expand/contract)

To:           All teaching staff
From:       Anna Linneus
Date:        3 March, 2010
Subject:    Procedures for reporting final grades on courses

Last term, there was some confusion as to how to report final grades to me. As a result, some international students had to wait too long to get their credits entered in the academic record. In an attempt to remedy the situation, this memo describes the preferred procedure for reporting final grades on courses at the end of this term.

1. Approximately one week before a course ends, you will receive a printed list with the course code and all the names of the students on the course.

2. Please fill in the final grades - both Swedish grades and ECTS grades - and give the form to me no later than 5 June.

3. About 2-3 days after I have received the form from you, I will put an official transcript form for you to sign, intended for our archives.

Please follow these procedures as they will make things better for our students and also easier for me. Thanks for your co-operation. If you have any questions, please call me at extension 32287 or come by my office.


Anna Linneus
Senior Course Administrator