Differences between Official Memos and Circulars – A Managerial Perspective

Written By: Claudia Jeffrey

Author: Claudia Jeffrey

There are numerous types of business communication varying on their purpose, whether it’s internal or external communication. It influences the ways businesses communicate within and also with other channels to share information. There are various forms of it such as memos, circulars, annual reports, news release etc. all of these have their importance and play an essential role in the stability of a business.

What is a memo?

A memorandum, generally known as a memo, can be defined as a brief message or record used for internal communication in any organization. They can be used to easily and quickly communicate a targeted number of audiences about an important announcement or change in policy. It may also communicate procedure amendments, price increase, reminders for teams, summaries of agreement terms, etc.
They serve their purpose by notifying the audience about the information or asserting them on call to action such as attending a meeting or applying a change in the manufacturing process. Apart from the purpose they serve, they are highly effective in connecting the writer with reader.

What is a circular?

Circulars can be termed as those letters which are circulated to a larger group of people at the same time. It conveys a specific message or a guideline to be observed in the future. It is a direct and lucrative approach of delivering information which assurance that it will be received by every recipient simultaneously. The main objectives of these circulars are business issues and emphasize more attention to be sought by the management of a business.
The use of a circular always in a business aspect is considered to convey information among organization such as an intra-department conversation. It is regarded as an effective tool of business communication as it disperses a message to a large group concurrently.

Difference between Official Memos and Circulars

In every organization, the managerial perspective is given significant importance as it reflects a comprehensive viewpoint. It assures effective communication in the workplace, which helps employees and departments in exchanging information.
In general, lots of people consider memos and circulars as same and interchange them without understanding the difference between them. Despite, these terms are quite different in terms of subject matter and the approach of distributing it among the audience. To elaborate this difference, a managerial perspective is required. It will provide in-depth approach which defines and differentiates between these two types of business communication.
Here, the difference between memos and circular are brief discussed.

Difference in subject and content

A memo has content or subject that is limited to some extent. Therefore official memos are used as more exclusive aspect in nature. They serve as a reminder to someone or a specific group of people in an organization to perform a task or action and can vary in word count as per need. The sender can deliver any idea or scheme by simply releasing a memo to the intended recipients keeping in perspective the importance of word count.
On the other side, in contrary to the memo, a circular consists of multiple topics and affairs which are discussed either to highlight their importance or suggestions to overcome a drawback. Apart from that, a circular extends its purpose to general subjects which are of daily business routine.

Difference in terms of distribution

The business communication occurs between a sender who needs to deliver a message and recipient which receives the message. These conversations can happen at a large scale, not only within the department but also occur at an intradepartmental level.
In respect to distribution, a memo is not broadly shared in comparison to a circular. It may occur that a memo within an organization or department is sent to only a person or group working on a specific task. It is shared as per the requirement limited to only those who are associated with it to any extent such as the issuance of a typical notice.
Regarding the distribution of circular, it has a much wider spectrum and covers a large group of people. It delivers a comparatively general information or announcement. For this reason, it is more commonly used for advertising purpose by a business, company or an agency as a formal public statement. The information or announcement can be printed on large banners or distributed as handouts on simple paper in the form of leaflets or flyers. The main idea is to circulate the message for the public in general or to a massive group of people as much as possible.

Nature of content in Memo

Last but not least, at times memo (short term of the memorandum) may also refer to any legal aspect or statutory documentation such as MOA (memorandum of association), MOU (memorandum of understanding), etc.
Circulars are more related to business-oriented issues and do not cover the legal aspect at any extent. It often contains various topics, but all are related to subject matters of an organization’s internal procedures, such as annual stock clearance, an invitation to a ceremony, admission of a new partner, etc.

In a nutshell

These two modes of business communication somewhat differ in terms of the subject matter involved and the way these messages are distributed to its intended audience. The difference between official memos and circular in regards to a managerial perspective clearly defines the style, purpose and target audience of both. It can be summarized as below:
ciruclars vs memos

 Sample of circular instructing employees to report on time

Here is a sample of circular which gives a general idea about its in business. This fictitious circular is from HR department instructing the employees of the production department to be punctual as the number of late reporting gets high. 

Date: September 18, 2019
To: Production department
From: HR department
Subject: instructions about reporting on time
It is noticed in the past month that the number of employees of production department reporting late at work has significantly increased. Hence, it is intimated to the entire department to be on time. The entry time at the factory must be sharp 8 am, a grace time of 5 minutes is allowed. We hope that the entire department will follow the punctuality of time.

Sample of an official memo about a meeting

 To better understand the concept of an official memo, below is a sample regarding a call of meeting by a department manager to the respective team.

To: Inbound Marketing Team
From: S.K. Mathew, Head of Marketing Department
Date: September 18, 2019
Subject: Monthly Performance Report
As the month of August has ended, let’s plan a team meeting about the monthly performance report regarding the targets achieved and areas to work on. Please be prepared with the sales figures, feedback of customers and new customers lead.
Looking forward to a constructive outcome from this meeting,