How to Write a Policy Memo

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Memos are tools to communicate in a formal way. Used primarily in professional settings, a well-written memo outlines a problem or issue and then through analysis and recommendations, communicates a resolution.

Know your audience. This most important first step should not be overlooked. Writing a policy memo to a group of subordinates is very different from writing to peers outside an organization or to superiors.

Analyze the problem or issue and concisely state it at the beginning of the memo. This main idea or problem statement is one of the most important aspects of a policy memo.

Explain why the problem exists and why there is a need for a new/different policy. You need to setup your audience for your recommendations. Elaborate on the problem or issue through logical analysis and presentation of relevant background.

Give recommendations. After analyzing the problem, recommend the policy that will alleviate or solve the problem. If there's room, contrast the policy with other solutions and explain why the recommendation you give is the best.

Edit for style and formatting. Memos should not exceed two pages and they should be formatted for easy reading. Do not use large blocks of texts. Make your main points bold or bulleted. Use active voice. Proofread and edit your memo more than once.

Tip

Avoid jargon. Not everyone knows what certain acronyms or industry phrases means. Try to use simple, clear English whenever possible.

About the Author

Jason Gordon is a professional writer and editor. In addition to online work, he has written for "Texas Highways," "AAA Southwest," "Glimpse," the "University of Washington Daily" and the "Dallas Morning News." Gordon's passions include animals, reading and finding the perfect pairings of pastry and espresso.

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