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A memorandum (abbrev.: memo; from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...

Latin
''memorandum est'', "It must be remembered") is a
written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or Organization, groups through the use of sufficien ...

written
message A message is a discrete unit of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and inner ...

message
that is typically used in a professional setting. Commonly abbreviated "memo," these messages are usually brief and are designed to be easily and quickly understood. Memos can thus communicate important information efficiently in order to make dynamic and effective changes. In
law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
, a memorandum is a record of the terms of a transaction or contract, such as a policy memo,
memorandum of understanding A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is a type of agreement between two (bilateralism, bilateral) or more (multilateralism, multilateral) parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action ...
,
memorandum of agreement A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is a type of agreement between two ( bilateral) or more ( multilateral) parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It is often used either in ...
, or
memorandum of association The memorandum of association of a company is an important corporate document in certain jurisdictions. It is often simply referred to as the memorandum. In the UK, it has to be filed with the Registrar of Companies during the process of incorpo ...
. In business, a memo is typically used by firms for internal communication, while
letters Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, Object (philosophy ...
are typically for external communication. Other memorandum formats include briefing notes, reports, letters, and binders. They may be considered
grey literature Grey literature (or gray literature) is materials and research produced by organizations outside of the traditional commercial Commercial may refer to: * a dose of advertising conveyed through media (such as - for example - radio or television) * ...
. Memorandum formatting may vary by office or institution. For example, if the intended recipient is a
cabinet minister A minister is a politician who heads a ministry (government department), ministry, making and implementing decisions on policies in conjunction with the other ministers. In some jurisdictions the head of government is also a minister and is desig ...
or a senior executive, the format might be rigidly defined and limited to one or two pages. If the recipient is a colleague, the formatting requirements are usually more flexible.


Policy briefing note

A specific type of memorandum is the policy briefing note (alternatively referred to in various jurisdictions and governing traditions as policy issues paper, policy memoranda, or cabinet submission amongst other terms), a document for transmitting
policy analysis Policy analysis is a technique used in public administration to enable civil servant The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career civil servants hired on professional merit rather than appointed or ...
into the political
decision making In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense s ...

decision making
sphere. Typically, a briefing note may be denoted as either “for information” or “for decision”.


Origins of term

The origins of the term “briefing” lie in legal “briefs” and the derivative “military briefings”. The plural form of the Latin noun ''memorandum'' so derived is properly ''memoranda'', but if the word is deemed to have become a word of the English language, the plural ''memorandums'', abbreviated to ''memos'', may be used. (See also Agenda,
CorrigendaAn erratum or corrigendum (plurals: errata, corrigenda) (comes from la, wikt:errata corrige, errata corrige) is a correction of a published text. As a general rule, publishers issue an erratum for a production error (i.e., an error introduced during ...
,
Addenda An addendum or appendix, in general, is an addition required to be made to a document by its author subsequent to its printing or publication. It comes from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, I ...
).


Purpose

There are many important purposes of a memorandum. Bringing notice to problems, and helping to solve a problem through clear and concise communication are two. Memos support decision making and to “help (or sometimes influence) a decision-maker to make a better decision in a particular problem situation than he might otherwise have made without the analysis”. Other purposes that the briefing note can serve include: conveying information; informing decisions, making a request, providing a response to a question, making a suggestion, presenting an informal report, proposing a solution to a problem, or documenting a reference for future use. Memorandums can be used to make brief appeals or give suggestions. These actions in a brief paper can help significantly expedite business actions to make a positive impact in an organization.


Structure

As the communication mechanism of the policy analysis process, the briefing note should provide a coherent synopsis of a policy problem, identify different policy options for addressing the problem, articulate opposing perspectives and advocate a recommended option. The typical structure for a briefing note includes a description of the proposed policy; relevant background information; a discussion of key considerations (including implementation concerns, financial considerations, stakeholder impacts, and possible unanticipated consequences), a summary of arguments for and against the policy and a recommended decision. Policy documents that start with a proposal and assemble an argument for that position are more accurately referred to as a government
white paper A white paper is a report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metap ...

white paper
. A government
green paper In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to ...
which raises a policy option and is meant to open a dialogue on the proposal is more similar in tone to a briefing note than is a
white paper A white paper is a report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metap ...

white paper
. A memo's concise format is relatively standardized in order to create accessibility to any reader. They open with a heading including a "to," from," "date," and "subject". A break in the text would then be followed by an opening paragraph, which would more than likely describe the purpose of the memo. Context is then added to the document, followed by a section of specific actions. Examples could include "You asked that I look at...." or "To determine the best method of promoting the new fall line, I will....". Actions are followed by discussion, which is typically the longest part of a memo, before concluding the message.


Quality criteria

There is no universal standard for a briefing note, but it is generally understood to be a concise, coherent summary of a public policy problem with a clearly articulated logic for following a recommended course of action. ”Next to a political nose, and a logical brain, the most important skill of the good treasury ersonresides in
heir Inheritance is the practice of passing on private property Private property is a legal designation for the ownership of property by non-governmental Legal personality, legal entities. Private property is distinguishable from public property ...
fine drafting hand. The concise, coherent and penetrating note is the final expression of all other talents.” In many governance settings based on the
Westminster system The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent of democracy Democracy ...
, policy analysts are expected to analyze the issue and write the briefing note from a neutral
civil service The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career civil servants hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leaders ...
perspective. However, the briefing note “for decision” must contain a recommendation, acknowledging that “to say anything of importance in public policy requires value judgments, which must be explained and justified”. In addition to keeping a proper memo concise and easily comprehensible, there are a few other important features. The style and tone of a memo should always be kept professional, no matter who the audience may be. This etiquette ensures that no matter who reads the message, it is presented professionally and respectfully. It is common to also see briefing notes with numbered paragraphs, in order to create an efficient and well-organized paper. Since entering the digital age, signatures are not commonly seen at the end of a memo. However, when a briefing note was handwritten in earlier years, they typically included a signature. Today it is still acceptable to sign or initial a memo if the writer wishes to.  


See also

*
Bench memorandum A bench memorandum (pl. ''bench memoranda'') (also known as a ''bench memo'') is a short and neutral memorandum that summarizes the facts, issues, and arguments of a court case. Bench memos are used by the judge as a reference during preparation for ...
*
Grey literature Grey literature (or gray literature) is materials and research produced by organizations outside of the traditional commercial Commercial may refer to: * a dose of advertising conveyed through media (such as - for example - radio or television) * ...
*
Memorandum of agreement A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is a type of agreement between two ( bilateral) or more ( multilateral) parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It is often used either in ...
*
Memorandum of association The memorandum of association of a company is an important corporate document in certain jurisdictions. It is often simply referred to as the memorandum. In the UK, it has to be filed with the Registrar of Companies during the process of incorpo ...
* Memorandum of conversation *
Memorandum of understanding A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is a type of agreement between two (bilateralism, bilateral) or more (multilateralism, multilateral) parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action ...
* Mémoire *
Presidential memorandum A presidential memorandum is a type of directive issued by the president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the ...
* Private Placement Memorandum * Note taking


References


External links


RPI.edu
The Writing Center:
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute () (RPI) is a private university, private research university in Troy, New York, with additional campuses in Rensselaer at Hartford, Hartford and Groton, Connecticut. It was established in 1824 by Stephen Van Re ...
.
Washington.edu
Memorandum Writing, Patrick, Richard F. Elmore, Laurie Werner.
How to Write Briefing Notes
Parkinson, Robert B.
Classic Format of a Briefing Note
Parkinson, Robert B. {{Authority control Legal documents Email Business terms Business documents Grey literature