When you need to summarize a large amount of information, a memo or letter is an efficient way to do it. Many people find writing difficult and believe they do not have the vocabulary to do it. But as the writing teacher William Zinsser says, writing is just thinking on paper. All you need to do is organize your thoughts, follow the style of the format you have chosen, and use language that is simple and clear.

Writing a Report in a Memo

Write a header. For a memo, state in the top left corner who is supposed to read the memo (for example, To: All Employees), who wrote it (From: Your Name), who else will receive it (CC: Name of Recipient) the date (Current Date) and what it is about (Subject: Topic to Address.)

If it is a letter, begin with a date and salutation, such as "To all employees:".

Consider your audience. If you are writing to a general audience, use language that everyone will understand. New employees may not yet know the company jargon, and employees in one department may not understand the terminology of another.

Make an outline. Organizing your thoughts allows for clear writing. Consider what your audience will want to know, and what you want to tell them. Emphasize key conclusions of the report and what it means for the people reading the memo.

Start with strong opening statements. Acknowledge the report and its conclusions. For example, "As a result of our recent productivity study, we will make several changes to our Internet use policies."

Explain. Highlight any data or findings that support the conclusion. "The consultants found that employees spent two hours a day on average checking email and managing fantasy sports teams." Also, let the readers know when the changes will take place.

Tell people where they might go for more complete information (if appropriate). For example, "We will discuss this further at our weekly staff meeting on Friday" or "The full report is available to all employees in PDF form." Do not sign the memo; your name is at the top of the memo. If you are writing a letter, use your first name, your full name, or your full name and title, depending on the circumstances and your preference.

Rewrite and cut the clutter. Reread the draft and eliminate unneccessary words. For example, "It is the opinion of corporate that the Scranton office should actively seek to reduce nonproductivity issues by limiting non-work usage of company resources," can be rewritten as "Corporate has asked us to limit personal use of company property. This will increase our productivity."

Proofread and spell-check. Have a trusted colleague check your grammar and tone; a poorly written sentence can be interpreted in ways you never intended. Also, run spell-check but be careful of automatic word-replacement features. You do not want your report to say "Indonesia" when you meant "Indiana."