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How to Write an Accounting Memo
The memos you write as an accountant speak volumes about your professional experience and credibility. Accountants are charged with writing all kinds of memos, including informal internal memos to colleagues and supervisors, formal memos to departmental units and tax memos to clients. A poorly written accounting memo can confuse recipients and damage your company standing. Learning to write accounting memos with clarity and accuracy is key to effective business communication and establishing a favorable reputation within your organization.
Determine the audience and purpose of your memo. Most memos are used to call attention to problems, offer solutions, communicate official company objectives or convey new information. Do not send a memo to an entire office if it only involves one department. Also consider the sensitivity of the material and whether the information would be best conveyed through an official memo or face-to-face communication.
Format the memo header using the following segments: TO: (recipients' names and job titles), FROM: (your name and job title), DATE: (complete and current date) and SUBJECT: (what the memo is about).
Ensure recipients are addressed by their correct name and formal job titles. Be specific and succinct in your subject line. For example, "End of Quarter" as a subject line could mean anything to the recipients. Instead use something like, "New Filing Procedures for End of Quarter."
Give a brief overview of what the memo is about in the opening segment. The purpose of the opening segment is to clarify to recipients why they have received the memo and why they should read the document. Keep the opening segment to a short paragraph.
Add context by describing the problem, event, circumstance or background of the memo. Context can be the opening sentence of your next paragraph ("Because of confusion related to last quarter's filing procedures . . . "), or a full and separate paragraph, depending on the amount of information necessary to get all recipients up to speed.
Follow the context with the task segment, which is the part of the memo that describes what is being done to solve the issue or problem ("We are implementing new filing procedures for next quarter . . . "). Keep the task segment to one sentence or a brief paragraph, depending on the complexity of the issue at hand.
Follow the task segment with a complete discussion that provides additional details and support. The discussion segment should be the longest part of the memo and include all the facts and research that back up the recommendation(s) set forth by the memo. Lead with the most pertinent details and strongest points of evidence.
Finish the memo with a short closing segment, no more than a paragraph, that courteously describes the actions you want the recipients of the memo to take ("Starting next month, please follow the new filing procedures . . ."). Stress how the recipients will benefit from following the actions outlined in the memo ("We hope these new filing procedures will save you time and lessen your workload . . . ").
Attach lists, graphs, articles or other relevant sources to your memo. Add a notation at the end of the memo if you include any attachments, such as "Attached: New Filing Procedures."
If this is your first memo, have a colleague or supervisor review it for accuracy and to make sure you haven't left out anything.
Sending out memos with incorrect name spellings, job titles or email addresses may cause colleagues not to take the memo seriously and even prove detrimental to your reputation if these are repeat offenses. Always double-check for complete accuracy before sending a memo.
Based in Arizona and California, Isabel Franco has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2003. She has written extensively on business, health, parenting, and travel, with work appearing in several online publications. Franco received her M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Arizona.