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Memorandum

Memorandum

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A memorandum is from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 verbal phrase memorandum est, the gerundive
Gerundive
In linguistics, a gerundive is a particular verb form. The term is applied very differently to different languages; depending on the language, gerundives may be verbal adjectives, verbal adverbs, or finite verbs...

 form of the verb memoro, "to mention, call to mind, recount, relate", which means "It must be remembered (that)...". It is therefore a note, document
Document
The term document has multiple meanings in ordinary language and in scholarship. WordNet 3.1. lists four meanings :* document, written document, papers...

 or other communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 that helps the memory by recording events or observations on a topic, such as may be used in a business office
Office
An office is generally a room or other area in which people work, but may also denote a position within an organization with specific duties attached to it ; the latter is in fact an earlier usage, office as place originally referring to the location of one's duty. When used as an adjective, the...

. 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, Corrigenda, Addenda)

A memorandum may have any format, or it may have a format specific to an office or institution. In law specifically, a memorandum is a record of the terms of a transaction or contract, such as a policy memo, memorandum of understanding
Memorandum of understanding
A memorandum of understanding is a document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It is often used in cases where parties either do not imply a legal commitment or in...

, memorandum of agreement
Memorandum of Agreement
A memorandum of agreement or cooperative agreement is a document written between parties to cooperatively work together on an agreed upon project or meet an agreed objective. The purpose of an MOA is to have a written understanding of the agreement between parties.An MOA is a good tool to use for...

, or memorandum of association
Memorandum of Association
The memorandum of association of a company, often simply called the memorandum , is the document that governs the relationship between the company and the outside...

. Alternative formats include memos, briefing notes, reports, letters or binders. They could be one page long or many. If the user is a cabinet minister
Minister (government)
A minister is a politician who holds significant public office in a national or regional government. Senior ministers are members of the cabinet....

 or a senior executive, the format might be rigidly defined and limited to one or two pages. If the user is a colleague, the format is usually much more flexible. At its most basic level, a memorandum can be a handwritten note to one's supervisor.

Dean Acheson
Dean Acheson
Dean Gooderham Acheson was an American statesman and lawyer. As United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Harry S. Truman from 1949 to 1953, he played a central role in defining American foreign policy during the Cold War...

 famously quipped that "A memorandum is not written to inform the reader but to protect the writer
Cover your ass
Cover Your Ass or Cover Your Own Ass describes professional and organizational practices that serve to protect oneself from legal and administrative penalties, criticism, or other punitive measures.-Common practices:...

". Charles Peters wrote that "bureaucrats write memoranda both because they appear to be busy when they are writing and because the memos, once written, immediately become proof that they were busy."

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
Policy analysis is "determining which of various alternative policies will most achieve a given set of goals in light of the relations between the policies and the goals". However, policy analysis can be divided into two major fields. Analysis of policy is analytical and descriptive—i.e., it...

 into the political decision making
Decision making
Decision making can be regarded as the mental processes resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice. The output can be an action or an opinion of choice.- Overview :Human performance in decision terms...

 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”.

Purpose


The primary purpose of a briefing note “for decision” is to support decision making – 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”.

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 that position are more accurately referred to as a government white paper
White paper
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and are often requested and used in politics, policy, business, and technical fields. In commercial use, the term has also come to refer to...

. A government green paper
Green paper
In the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland and the United States a green paper is a tentative government report of a proposal without any commitment to action; the first step in changing the law...

 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
White paper
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and are often requested and used in politics, policy, business, and technical fields. In commercial use, the term has also come to refer to...

.

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 [person] resides in [their] fine drafting hand. The concise, coherent and penetrating note is the final expression of all other talents.” In many Westminster / Whitehall governance settings, policy analysts are expected to analyze the issue and write the briefing note from a neutral public service 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”.

See also


  • Bench memorandum
    Bench memorandum
    A Bench Memorandum is a short and neutral memo which summarizes the facts, issues, and arguments of a court case...

  • Memorandum of agreement
    Memorandum of Agreement
    A memorandum of agreement or cooperative agreement is a document written between parties to cooperatively work together on an agreed upon project or meet an agreed objective. The purpose of an MOA is to have a written understanding of the agreement between parties.An MOA is a good tool to use for...

  • Memorandum of association
    Memorandum of Association
    The memorandum of association of a company, often simply called the memorandum , is the document that governs the relationship between the company and the outside...

  • Memorandum of understanding
    Memorandum of understanding
    A memorandum of understanding is a document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It is often used in cases where parties either do not imply a legal commitment or in...

  • Mémoire
    Mémoire
    In French culture, the word mémoire, as in un mémoire is used for a piece of writing allowing the author to show his or her opinion on a given subject, logically approaching a series of facts in order to arrive at a recommendation or conclusion...

  • Presidential memorandum
    Presidential memorandum
    A presidential memorandum is a type of presidential order issued by the President of the United States to the executive branch of the United States government. Presidential memoranda do not have an established process for issuance or publication...

  • Private Placement Memorandum

External links

  • RPI.edu, The Writing Center: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    Stephen Van Rensselaer established the Rensselaer School on November 5, 1824 with a letter to the Rev. Dr. Samuel Blatchford, in which van Rensselaer asked Blatchford to serve as the first president. Within the letter he set down several orders of business. He appointed Amos Eaton as the school's...

    .
  • Washington.edu, Memorandum Writing, Patrick, Richard F. Elmore, Laurie Werner.