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Minutes for a Meeting

Welcome to the PARLIAMENTARY INTERNET NEWSLETTER. This newsletter is for all those who are interested in learning about better meeting procedures, and the preserving of democracy in small groups, organizations, churches, schools and government organizations. We promise to keep the information simple so that all can understand; and we promise to try to answer any questions that you may have concerning any problems in your meetings. We will answer any procedural questions that you have,too. We are most familiar with the parliamentary authority of ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER, NEWLY REVISED, 1990 Edition. But we have access to THE STANDARD CODE OF PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE, by Alice Sturgis, and to DEMETER'S MANUAL OF PARLIAMENTARY LAW AND PROCEDURE, by George Demeter.


Dear Readers,

In writing booklets for our new video, ALL ABOUT MOTIONS, someone wrote a letter to "Janet" about what to include in the minutes. Since we were enclosing information about this in the booklet that goes with our new meeting tape, we thought we would share this information with all of you in our newsletter.

This is just a part of the booklet that goes with the video. We also have included two sets of minutes that are actually taken from the meetings (a regular meeting and an adjourned meeting). So that viewers can watch the video, take their own minutes and compare them with our minutes. If you would like to know more about this new two volume video series, please e-mail us, or look under the new release under "videos and books".

Our next newsletter will be a continuation of our bylaws series; it will be about "HOW TO WRITE THE BYLAWS".

Robert McConnell





The most frequently asked question is, "What do I put in the minutes?"   If a person asks enough parliamentarians, reads enough books on the subject, consults various parliamentary authorities, he will find many view points as to what is written in the minutes. The answer is to follow what the organization's parliamentary authority recommends, and what the organization itself wants in the minutes. If one is recording minutes for legislative bodies, for example city governments, there may be state codes governing content of the minutes.

HELPFUL HINT: A person reading the minutes should be able to visualize what was done at the meeting.

It is recommended that the minutes contain a record of what is done and not what is said. If the minutes are to be published, in addition to the information described below, they should contain a list of speakers on each side of the question with an abstract text of each address. Committee reports are printed in full and what action was taken on them. At this meeting it would be wise to record the meeting. (For more details see Robert's Rules of Order pp. 465 -466.)


One may ask, "Why do I need to have a thorough knowledge of parliamentary procedure to take the minutes?" Because all secondary motions, (subsidiary, privilege, and incidental) that are adopted are recorded in the minutes. (See example of student meeting minutes that follow.) If the secretary does not understanding the ranking of motions, etc., the minutes will not be accurate. The secretary who has a thorough knowledge of parliamentary procedure can also be of great help to the chair when there is no parliamentarian present.

What To Include in Minutes

Robert's states that the following goes into the Minutes (ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER pp.458 - 466):

1. Name of the organization, date, time place of meeting, and the kind of meeting - -regular, special or adjourned.

2. The presence of the regular presiding officer and the Secretary, or the name of their substitutes.

[If the agenda requires a roll call, it is recorded in the minutes -- those who are present, those absent, and if a member comes in late or leaves early. In board minutes, it is a good idea to name those present and those absent.]

3. What action was taken on the minutes of the previous meeting (approved as read or corrected) Corrections should be recorded in the minutes of both meetings -- in the minutes where the mistake is found, and in the minutes of the meeting where it was read.

FOR EXAMPLE: The minutes for the August 3rd meeting would read. "The minutes of the July 3rd meeting were corrected to read "the balance in the treasury is $500." The minutes were approved as corrected."

The Secretary would then correct the July 3rd minutes by drawing a line through the mistake and writing above the mistake "$500." and initialing it.

4. Body of minutes contains the fact that the report of officers, boards, standing and special committees were given, and what action was taken, if any.

[Some minutes give the entire treasurer's report, and some just give beginning and ending balances. If the members get a copy of the treasurer's report, then perhaps only the beginning balance, total income and total expenditures, and the ending balance need to go into the minutes. The members should decide what they want in the minutes concerning this. Some minutes include a brief summary of committee reports.]

5. The final wording of all main motions with amendments incorporated, all motions that bring a question back again before the assembly, and what happened to each motion -- was it adopted , lost, or temporarily disposed of ( meaning referred to committee, postponed, or laid on the table), but not if it was withdrawn.* One parliamentarian records in the minutes the main motion as stated by the maker, then in it is final form as adopted by the assembly.

[*If a motion has been postponed to another meeting, and then withdrawn a note of this should be put in the minutes so there is some record of what happened to that motion. (footnote ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER p. 459) See the minutes taken at the adjourned meeting that follows.]

6. The name of the maker of the motion is put in the minutes but not the person who seconds it. However, some societies want the name of the seconder in the minutes. Remember a "second" means "I am willing to have this discussed" -- not "I'm in favor of it, too." (If a motion is discussed without a second, after the discussion begins, not having the motion seconded is a moot point because by discussing it, it is evident the members want to considered it.)

7. Secondary motions that were adopted are placed in the minutes. If the motion to recess is adopted, the minutes should state what time the members recessed and what time the meeting was called back to order.

8. If a counted vote is order or a ballot vote is taken during the meeting, the votes on each side should be recorded in the minutes. (Unless the organization has a rule that says that they don't do that. Or if an organization has a precedence that they don't do that.) If a roll call vote is taken, the names of those voting on each side and those answering present should be recorded.

9. When recording nominations and elections, the names presented by the nominating committee are named first in the minutes, then those nominated from the floor. In reporting the vote, the teller's committee report is recorded in the minutes, and then the chair's declaration of each member elected.(ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER p.411) The number of votes each nominee received should be recorded in the minutes. Also state the term of office.

[One organization elected board members for a three year term. It elected two board members, on odd years, and three members on even years. The organization went through a period of people moving away and they had to fill vacancies. Because they didn't record in the minutes that members were elected to fill a vacancy for ___years, there came a time when the members didn't know if they were electing members to fill three year terms or fill vacancies of shorter terms. Looking in the minutes wasn't any help. So be specific about elections and filling vacancies.]

10. The minutes are to state when the assembly goes into a committee of the whole or quasi committee of the whole, and its report.

11. All previous notice of motions, and their content.

12. All points of order, and the chair's ruling; appeals, whether sustained or lost.

13. Important announcements. For example, if the meeting place and time is different each meeting, and the chair announces where and when the next meeting will be, that is recorded in the minutes.

14. If there is a guest speaker or a program, the name of the speaker and program are written in the minutes. No effort should be made to summarize points given by the speaker.

15. The last paragraph contains the hour of adjournment.

16. Minutes are closed with the signature and title of the person who took the minutes. (Omit the phrase respectfully submitted.)

17. Nothing is erased from the minutes. Corrections are made in the margin. (or if they are double spaced, the correction can be written above what is corrected.) If material is expunged, a line is drawn through the words that are to be expunged. Someone should be able to read what was crossed out.

18. When minutes are approved, the word "approved" and the secretary's initials and date of the approval are written below the minutes.

[Special note: When an assembly passes a motion that has to do with a continuing nature, for example, time of the meeting, buying plaques for out going officers, giving money to an organization on a yearly basis, having a yearly dance, or a set function at a certain time, etc., these should be put in a notebook called standing rules. Because these motions are on going to rescind or amend them, requires previous notice and a majority vote, or a two thirds vote without notice. These motions are numbered when putting them in Standing Rules.]


With computer technology today, very few are hand writing the minutes in a bound ledger book with numbered pages. However, the secretaries of some small parliamentary study units still do this.

If the computer has given way to the pen, then the organization needs to find a way to keep their minutes on consecutively number pages, and have them bound yearly.

It is a good idea to have the minutes carefully reviewed for accuracy, spelling and grammar before putting them in their final form -- either hand written into that bound page numbered book, or on the computer page.

Some recommend putting headings at the top of each new paragraph or subject. Such as "Reports of Officers, Committees, etc.", "Reports", "Unfinished Business", "New Business", etc.

Some leave either a large left or right margin, and then put beside each paragraph a short summary of the paragraph. In fact each subject is a paragraph in and of itself. This enables those looking at the minutes months or years later to easily find what they are searching for.