Reading a piece about what’s wrong with corporate memos, I noticed that the writer didn’t distinguish between e-mail and any other type of internal memo. That’s good, because in most cases, there isn’t any difference. Not any more.

Some people still think there’s a difference between e-mail and memos, and there was a clear distinction in the 1990s, before e-mail became the mainstream vehicle for communicating. Back then, most messages were still Word documents with “Memo” at the top, and e-mail was an “anything goes” environment for trivial chit-chat. 

Today, the distinction is not so much between memos and e-mail as it is between two types of e-mail: the substantive messages of two paragraphs or longer about a significant issue (the traditional memo), and the one-sentence e-mail that is a quick response, a short request, or an invitation to lunch. If it is a detailed message about a meaningful topic relating to daily business operations, it’s a memo. Being sloppy might be convenient for you because you’re in a hurry, but so is the reader. Making the message difficult to read is inconsiderate, and it doesn’t do much for your image.