It would be difficult to draw a precise distinction between circulars and memos. Both are often identical in approach and reach. One way of differentiating between circulars and memos is to look at circulars as a means of specific, subject-related instructions, whereas memos cover events and developments. Circulars are generally meant to be followed, whereas memos are noted. Circulars are in the nature of instructions or guidelines and are expected to be followed mandatorily. Memos are generally a matter of information.
Circulars are of a permanent nature, of long-term relevance and may be modified as and when instructions have to be revised. Memos are generally of short-term relevance. Referring to banks specifically, all types of instructions covering various functional areas such as deposits, advances, foreign exchange, ancillary services, schemes and facilities are communicated by way of circulars. Circulars cover details of terms and conditions, eligibility criteria, interest rate and service charges. Memos cover details of events or developments such as branch opening and shifting, staff-related matters such as transfers and promotions and market-related developments. The distinction made here is between circulars and memos. This, however, should not be taken as a hard and fast rule, and it would be desirable to follow whatever practice is already in vogue in an organization.
Circulars and memos can be general or sectional. Unlike general ones, sectional circulars and memos are addressed only to specific units or sections of people. For example, circulars concerning non-resident Indian (NRI) need be sent only to branches handling NRI accounts. Likewise, circulars and memos pertinent to, say, Mumbai Zone need to be sent only to offices coming within its jurisdiction. Similarly, memos concerning officers need to be circularized among the officer community and circulars relating to rural business need to be circulated only among the rural branches. Circulars and memos contain vital details of relevance in functional areas, and will have to be referred to frequently by the personnel working in the organization. Due to their crucial importance and reference value, circulars are often carefully indexed, filed and preserved, facilitating ready sourcing and reference.
Circulars and memos are issued on an ongoing basis to cover various operational and functional areas, by corporate as well as other administrative and controlling offices and units. Proper indexing into specific areas such as deposits, advances, statements, premises, personnel, regions and schemes is a must to facilitate back reference. Organizations also use different colours for circulars covering different subjects. Circulars and memos, to be effective, will have to be carefully drafted. They should possess the usual characteristics of a good written communication such as clarity, brevity, cogency and completeness.
In view of their importance, quite often, the draft of the circular or memo passes through several levels or tiers for approval. The text gets printed whenever copies required are large in number. Dispatch and distribution are other areas requiring due attention. Care should be taken to ensure that copies reach all concerned in time so that there is no communication gap.
Sometimes circulars and memos refer to several previous ones on the subject, which makes it difficult for the user. It would be necessary to bring out a comprehensive or consolidated circular to facilitate easy reference. Sometimes instructions, directives or guidelines issued by external agencies such as government departments, trade organizations and regulatory bodies are reproduced in circulars. In doing so, care should be taken to clarify the message in terms of internally understood terms, phrases and abbreviations.