One of the responsibilities of staff members working in
various levels of government is writing briefing memos for policy makers, who
use the memos to educate themselves about issues and to guide them in forming
protocols, procedures and laws.
A briefing memo is a concise summary of an issue or case
that presents a call for action to the reader.
A successful memo persuades the reader to act by providing
concrete evidence that is easy to understand and evaluate.
Begin the memo by writing "To:" and
Insert the name of the sender and the recipient after the
On the next line, write the date that you wrote the memo.
Finish this section by writing "Subject:"
followed by the topic that the memo references.
Specify the action that you want to reader to take in the
first sentence or paragraph of the memo.
Maintain the reader's attention by using brief, succinct
paragraphs that are no more than 5 sentences long.
When stating the reasons for taking action, list each reason
in a separate paragraph.
Use empirical evidence to persuade the reader of the need
for the proposed course of action.
For example, cite low-income housing statistics when seeking
a change in a given zoning policy.
Avoid generalizations that you cannot support with facts.
Outline the alternative courses of actions or policies,
describing the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Avoid unnecessarily wordy or formal expressions, for
example "as per our discussion," and technical jargon when you are
citing facts and figures.
Use simple, direct language that any reader can understand.
Use the active voice, as opposed to passive, throughout
the memo to encourage action.
If you know the recipient of the memo well, use first person
pronouns like "I" and "we," because people are more likely
to do something for those they feel they know personally.
Emphasize such personal connections further by using
contractions, such as "I'm".
Reiterate the necessity for action at the end of the memo.
Be sure to indicate if there is a deadline for action that
must be met.
Informing Policy Makers: