Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

14: The Official Memorandum

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    Document Standards: Part VI expands upon the functions of written communications and their formats within the United States Air Force as outlined in AFMAN 33-326, Preparing Official Communications. We have included examples of Air Force documents to demonstrate the Air Force standards presented in this publication. However, if your command publishes \(\boldsymbol{a}\) supplement to AFMAN 33-326, an operating instruction (OI) on document standards, or has its own administrative style guide or preferences, check those sources for guidance on preparing documents before you begin.

    Writing for the Boss: Preparing a staff package, memorandum or personal letter for a senior official’s signature demands the product be ready to sign. Write as though every letter were being signed or read well up the chain of command. Consider these tips to improve your written work:

    • Check for preferences. Contact the senior official’s office staff before you start to see if the official has preferences-and get some pointers! For example, the choice of words in the salutation and closing may be different depending on the rank of the recipient.
    • Analyze purpose and Audience (Step 1 of Seven Steps to Effective Communication). What is the desired purpose? What are the issues (core and peripheral)? Who is the audience? What tone, organizational pattern and correspondence style are most appropriate? Also, use critical thinking skills as you draft. What is the relationship of the sender to the receiver? What are the first, second and third order effects of the package?
    • Keep it simple. Get to the point, make it and move on. Your first draft will probably be twice as long as needed. If you must include details, use attachments.
    • Go easy on the modifiers. A senior official doesn’t need to be very interested in something-being interested is sufficient. Avoid emotional tones.
    • Quality control. Logic, grammar, facts, figures and format must all be checked, re-checked then checked again. Your credibility is on the line: make it count.
    • Addresses. Use the correct and current address; avoid embarrassment and delays!
    • Go one step further. Look efficient when doing a personal letter and, if appropriate, provide the general with the "go-by" name of the addressee on a yellow sticky. Remember to exercise sensitivity in the case of a condolence letter to a spouse or family member.
    • Be realistic. Don’t expect your product to fly the first time; set pride aside and welcome the feedback so you can get it right the next time.

    Why should we write differently for senior officials? We shouldn’t-we should write right all the time. Write high-quality products for all your written communications, and we will all be better communicators for the effort-and it will make that staff tour less daunting as well.


    This chapter covers:

    • The Heading Section
    • The Text of the Official Memorandum
    • The Closing Section
    • Additional Information
    • Attachments
    • The Official Memorandum: Examples
    • Spelling Checkers: Before You Sign

    Memorandums are used to communicate throughout the DoD and with other Federal agencies as well as to conduct official business outside the Government with vendors or contractors when a personal letter is inappropriate. Official memorandums may be addressed to specific officials, single offices, multiple offices, multiple offices IN TURN or to DISTRIBUTION lists. Follow the guidance of this chapter when preparing any official memorandum, beginning with these basic format requirements:

    1. Use printed letterhead, computer-generated letterhead, or plain bond paper.
    2. Type or print using black ink.
    3. Follow AFI 31-401, Information Security Program Management, applicable executive orders and DoD guidance for the necessary markings on classified correspondence.
    4. Use 1-inch margins on the left, right and bottom for most memorandums. For shorter communications, you may adjust the margins.
      1. 20 lines or more \(\rightarrow 1\) inch margins
      2. 10-19 lines \(\rightarrow 1\) to \(11 / 2\) inch margins
      3. 1-9 lines \(\rightarrow 11 / 2\) to 2 inch margins
    5. Use 12 point Times New Roman font for text. Smaller sizes, no smaller than 10 point, may be used when required to control page breaks. For example, shrink the font of all text in the memorandum to prevent a page break between the body and closing elements (signature block). The signature block is never on a page by itself.

    For most documents, the guidance for the specific elements on the following pages needs no adjustments; however, for short communications, you may adjust the top margin in order to balance the content toward the vertical center of the document by moving all elements from the date to the last line of the closing to achieve visual balance and avoid a top-heavy appearance.

    This page titled 14: The Official Memorandum is shared under a Public Domain license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by US Air Force (US Department of Defense) .

    • Was this article helpful?