How to Write an APA Formatted Memo

Schools and colleges use memos to communicate information about problems and solutions. Writing a properly formatted APA-style memo ensures that you are presenting this information in a clear and coherent fashion. American Psychological Association style is used to format documents and cite sources in social sciences.

APA Style and Parts of a Memo

Memos formatted according to APA’s formatting guidelines start with a clear heading including information about whom the memo is addressed to, whom it is from, the date it was sent and its subject. The body of the memo follows, including a detailed description of the memo’s subject. You may break this description up into subsections. The memo concludes with a brief, one or two sentence summary of the memo’s contents, as well as a note indicating the names and types of attachments you included with the memo if this applies.

Identify the Audience and Purpose

Purdue’s Online Writing Lab recommends identifying the audience and purpose of your memo carefully. The audience -- the people the memo is addressed to -- should be the people in your company who are affected by the subject of the memo. The purpose of the memo should be geared toward this readership. APA style recommends using active voice when communicating these ideas. For example, you might open a memo by writing, “This memo describes a problem related to teacher interactions some of our students have been recently experiencing.”

Follow APA Format Guidelines

According to Purdue’s OWL, memos follow standard business or technical writing guidelines. This means they should be single-spaced and left-justified, and should use a common font such as Times New Roman or Arial. As shorter documents, APA-formatted memos should be no longer than two pages, and most will be around one page. Rather than indenting new paragraphs, skip two lines before starting a new paragraph. If you use headings to break up the content of your memo, use a text format that sets the heading apart; for example, use bold face text or underline the heading.

Use a Ratio to Structure Your Memo

Purdue’s OWL recommends breaking the memo up according to the following ratio: The heading should be one-eighth of the memo, the opening description of the audience and purpose should be one-quarter of the length, the discussion of the subject one-half of the length, and the closing segment, summary and note about attachments the remaining one-eighth of the memo. Though a rough guideline, this breakdown will ensure that you do not spend too much time describing the audience and purpose, or not enough time describing the subject of the memo.

About the Author

Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

Photo Credits
  • dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images