Memorandum


Memorandum

A memorandum (abbrev.: memo) is from the Latin verbal phrase memorandum est, the gerundive form of the verb memoro, "to mention, call to mind, recount, relate",[1] which means "It must be remembered (that)...". It is therefore a note, document or other communication that helps the memory by recording events or observations on a topic, such as may be used in a business office. 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 agreement, or memorandum of association. 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 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 famously quipped that "A memorandum is not written to inform the reader but to protect the writer". 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."[2]

Contents

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 into the political decision making 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”.[3]

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”.[4]

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. A government green paper 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.

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.”[5] 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”.[6]

See also

References

  1. ^ Cassell's Latin Dictionary, ed. Marchant & Charles
  2. ^ Charles Peters. How Washington Really Works. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1983.
  3. ^ Simpson, J.A. and E.S.C. Weiner (ed.) 1989. Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. OED Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  4. ^ Quade, E.S. 1975. Analysis for public decisions. New York: Elsevier. p. 13
  5. ^ Heclo, H. and Rahul Vaidya 1974. The Private Government of Public Money. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 58
  6. ^ Majone, G. 1989. Evidence, Argument, and Persuasion in the Policy Process. New Haven, CT: Yalley University Press. p. 21

External links


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Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • mémorandum — [ memɔrɑ̃dɔm ] n. m. • 1777; angl. memorandum, neutre subst. du lat. memorandus « qui doit être rappelé, mérite d être rappelé » 1 ♦ Note écrite, adressée par un agent diplomatique au gouvernement auprès duquel il est accrédité, pour exposer le… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • memorandum — MEMORÁNDUM, memorandumuri, s.n. 1. Document diplomatic cuprinzând expunerea faptelor sau argumentelor juridice care privesc relaţiile dintre state şi formează sau vor forma obiectul unor tratative; memorial. 2. (înv.) Carnet, registru etc. pe… …   Dicționar Român

  • memorandum — mem‧o‧ran‧dum [ˌmeməˈrændəm] noun memoranda PLURALFORM [ də] or memorandums PLURALFORM [countable] 1. formal a …   Financial and business terms

  • memorandum — mem·o·ran·dum /ˌme mə ran dəm/ n pl dums or da / də/ 1: a usu. informal written communication 2: a record (as a note) which is used by a party seeking to enforce an otherwise oral agreement in accordance with the Statute of Frauds to prove that… …   Law dictionary

  • Memorandum — Sn erw. fach. (19. Jh.) Neoklassische Bildung. Entlehnt aus ne. memorandum Vermerk zur Erinnerung , übernommen aus dem Gerundivum von l. memorāre erinnern .    Ebenso nndl. memorandum, ne. memorandum, nfrz. mémorandum, nschw. memorandum, nnorw.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Memorandum — Mem o*ran dum, n.; pl. E. {Memorandums}, L. {Memoranda}. [L., something to be remembered, neut. of memorandus, fut. pass. p. of memorare. See {Memorable}.] [1913 Webster] 1. A record of something which it is desired to remember; a note to help… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • memorandum — (n.) early 15c., from L. memorandum (thing) to be remembered, neuter singular of memorandus worthy of remembrance, noteworthy, gerundive of memorare to call to mind, from memor mindful of (see MEMORY (Cf. memory)). Originally a word written at… …   Etymology dictionary

  • memorândum — s. m. O mesmo que memorando. • Plural: memorânduns.   ‣ Etimologia: latim memorandum, neutro de memorandus, a, um, que deve ser lembrado, gerundivo de memoro, are, lembrar …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • memorándum — (Del lat. memorandum, cosa que debe recordarse). 1. m. Comunicación diplomática, menos solemne que la memoria y la nota, por lo común no firmada, en que se recapitulan hechos y razones para que se tengan presentes en un asunto grave. 2. Informe… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • Memorandum — (lat.), etwas zu Notierendes, eine Denkschrift; ein dazu bestimmtes Buch (Memorandenbuch, Memorial); insbes. auch die in Seeversicherungspolicen enthaltene Aufzählung der Gefahren, gegen die der Versicherer keine Garantie übernimmt …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Memorándum — (lat.), etwas zu Erinnerndes, zu Notierendes; dafür bestimmtes Buch (Memorandenbuch) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon