Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's memos not memo's

According to the Lynn Gaertner-Johnson's Business Writing blog, this is the most common writing error she sees.

When people sign up for my writing courses, I ask them, among other things, what kinds of business messages they write. Their responses reveal the error: 

I write email, reports, memo's, and presentations.

I write memo's requesting funds for capital purchases.

The plural of memo is memos--not memo's. We should all write memos.

The word memo's can be a correct possessive form. Examples:

I could not understand the memo's intent.

The memo's format was unconventional.

Grammar purists might frown at the possessive form used with an inanimate object, which my two examples directly above use. They would prefer these constructions:

I could not understand the intent of the memo. [OR] I could not understand the writer's intent.

The format of the memo was unconventional.

Despite the preferences of purists, possessive forms with inanimate objects are fine unless the resulting expression is awkward. For example, "the bottom of the barrel" and "the foot of the bed" are common phrases. "The barrel's bottom" and "the bed's foot" would be awkward replacements.

If you are someone who mistakenly uses memo's, set your software to automatically correct it to memos. If everyone does that, I will be able to report a new most common error in 2012.



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I would argue that the correct word is memoranda. I do not allow my students to use the informal spelling of the word memorandum; I do not think practitioners should either.

Posted by: LLM | Nov 16, 2011 5:56:38 AM

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