On Writing Minutes

Hi PA-TSA, I hope all of you are doing well. As the TSA year begins and chapters gear up to begin running their first meetings, I hope to lend a helping hand to all of my fellow minute-writing comrades. Below you’ll find my best attempt at a fairly comprehensive guide to writing minutes:


To begin, lets quickly run through how minutes are structured:

First Paragraph:

  • The type of meeting
  • Name of your Chapter
  • Date, time, and location
  • A statement confirming that your organization’s regular presiding officer and secretary are present
  • Mention if the previous minutes were read and approved

Body Paragraphs:

  • All main main motions and its maker’s name
  • Motions brining a question again before the assembly
  • Final wording of the motions as adopted or disposed of
  • Information about the type of vote
  • If a motion was postponed, include any pending secondary motions attached to it
  • Secondary motions not lost or withdrawn
  • Notices of motions
  • All points of order and appeals and their dispositions with reasoning from the chair
  • If a member gets named by the chair for being disorderly, include their name and what they said or did that was disorderly

Last Paragraph:

  • The hour of adjournment

I understand that was a lot to take in at once, it will all make sense after we take a look at an example. However, first please keep the following in mind to ensure that you avoid making this very common mistake:

“Secretaries make unneeded work for themselves by putting far more into the minutes than is required or appropriate. The most frequent mistakes are trying to summarize the reports offered and arguments made in debate, and including all of the amendments and other secondary motions. In fact, in standard form the minutes should generally include only what was done, not what was said” (RONR in Brief 148-149).


Here’s where you should start paying attention. Below is a side-by-side analysis with a model form for minutes excerpted from Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 12th Edition (RONR (12th ed.) 48:8). In order to get a better feel for the structure I laid out above, read the example and then the commentary:

(1) The regular monthly meeting of the L.M. Society was held on Thursday, January 4, 20__, at 8:30 P.M., at the Society’s building, the President being in the chair and the Secretary being present. The minutes of the last meeting were read and approved as corrected.

Paragraph 1:

  1. Begins by stating what type of meeting was held (regular, special, etc.)
    1. “regular monthly meeting”
  2. It continues by naming the organization
    1. “the L.M. Society”
  3. Then includes the date, time, and location of the meeting
    1. “Thursday, January 4, 20__, at 8:30 P.M., at the Society’s building”
  4. If the normal President and Secretary were present at the meeting (and if not their substitutes)
    1. “the President being in the chair and the Secretary being present”
  5. Lastly, whether or not the minutes of the previous meeting were “read and approved” or “read and approved as corrected”.
    1. “The minutes of the last meeting were read and approved as corrected.”

 

(2)The Treasurer reported the receipt of a bill from the Downs Construction Company in the amount of $5,000 for the improvements recently made in the Society’s building. The question put by the chair “that the bill be paid” was adopted.

Paragraph 2:

  1. Here, the minutes include a little more information about the Treasurer’s report than what is usually necessary. This is because a motion was made as part of the report. Since the motion was referring to a bill being paid, the Secretary included information about how much the bill cost and what it was for.
  2. Usually, if the report doesn’t have a motion attached to it, feel free to keep it as brief as: “Reports were given by President Darian Will, Vice-President Roxana Arthur, Secretary Jolan Davis, Treasurer Jose Rhinehart, and Karen Wilson, Chairman, on behalf of the Education Committee” (RONR in Brief 150).

 

(3)Mr. Johnson, reporting on behalf of the Membership Committee, moved “that John R. Brown be admitted to membership in the Society.” The motion was adopted after debate.

Paragraph 3:

  1. This is a good example of a concise way to treat a report with a report attached to it.

 

(4)The report of the Program Committee was received and placed on file.

(5)The Special committee that was appointed to investigate and report on suitable parking facilities near the Society’s building reported, through its chairman, Mrs. Smith, a resolution, which, after debate and amendment, was adopted as follows: “Resolved, That … [its exact words immediately before being acted upon, incorporating all amendments].”

Paragraph 5:

  1. Paragraph 5 begins by describing the purpose of “the special committee” since the committee was never given a proper name.
    1. “The Special committee that was appointed to investigate and report on suitable parking facilities near the Society’s building reported”
  2. Then, it gives the name of the person making the report.
    1. “through its chairman, Mrs. Smith,”
  3. A resolution is attached to the report, so the minutes state the final form of the resolution as it was adopted after any debate and amendments.
    1. “a resolution, which, after debate and amendment, was adopted as follows: ‘Resolved, That …”
  4. The minutes should state whether the motion was adopted or lost “after debate”, “after amendment”, or “after debate and amendment”.
    1. “after debate and amendment”

 

(6)The resolution relating to the use of the Society’s library by nonmembers, which was postponed from the last meeting, was then taken up. This motion and a pending amendment were laid on the table after the chair announced that the guest speaker had received a phone message which would require his early departure.

Paragraph 6:

  1. The beginning of this paragraph shows that a motion that was carried over from the previous meeting was taken up. Since the full text of the resolution is brought up again below, the minutes do not include a full version of the wording here. Instead, the minutes refer to the resolution by its description.
    1. “The resolution relating to the use of the Society’s library by nonmembers, which was postponed from the last meeting, was then taken up.”
  2. Then, the motion and a pending amendment were laid on the table due to a scheduling conflict with a guest speaker. This is important to note. Since the motion was temporarily disposed of, the minutes include any pending primary or secondary amendments and all adhering pending secondary motions.
    1. “This motion and a pending amendment were laid on the table.”

 

(7)The President introduced the guest speaker, Mr. James F. Mitchell, whose subject was _____.

Paragraph 7:

  1. The minutes should include the name and subject of the speaker, but it’s not necessary to include any summary of their remarks.
    1. “Mr. James F. Mitchell, whose subject was _____.”

 

(8)At the conclusion of Mr. Mitchell’s talk, the resolution relating to the use of the Society’s library by nonmembers was taken from the table. After amendment and further debate, the resolution was adopted as follows: “Resolved, That … [its exact wording immediately before being finally voted on].”

Paragraph 8:

  1. Notice that this is the resolution referred to in paragraph 6. After the scheduling conflict with the speaker was handled, the resolution was brought before the assembly again.
    1. “At the conclusion of Mr. Mitchell’s talk, the resolution relating to the use of the Society’s library by nonmembers was taken from the table.”
  2. Here, the minutes include the final wording of the resolution after amendment and debate.
    1. “After amendment and further debate, the resolution was adopted as follows: “Resolved, That …”

 

(9)Mr. Gordon moved “that the Society undertake the establishment of a summer camp for boys on its lake front property.” Mrs. Thomas moved to amend this motion by inserting the word “underprivileged” before “boys.” On motion of Mr. Dorsey, the motion to establish the camp, with the pending amendment, was referred to a committee of three to be appointed by the chair with instruction to report at the next meeting. The chair appointed Messrs. Flynn, Dorsey, and Fine to the committee.

Paragraph 9:

  1. The paragraph begins by stating the name of the maker of the motion as well as it’s initial wording. The initial wording here is important because the motion is never voted on, and is instead referred to committee.
    1. “Mr. Gordon moved ‘that the Society undertake the establishment of a summer camp for boys on its lake front property.’”
  2. Then, an amendment was made by “Mrs. Thomas”. Note how her name was included, and information about the amendment was included. This is also because the motion gets referred to committee.
    1. “Mrs. Thomas moved to amend this motion by inserting the word ‘underprivileged’ before ‘boys.’”
  3. A motion to commit was then made by “Mr. Dorsey”. This is what the motion was never fully voted on, and why it is essential to include the information about the initial wording of the motion and the pending amendment.
    1. “On motion of Mr. Dorsey, the motion to establish the camp, with the pending amendment, was referred to a committee of three to be appointed by the chair with instruction to report at the next meeting.”
  4. Lastly, the minutes state the names of the committee members appointed by the chair. After some research, I discovered that “Messrs” is actually the plural form for Mr.
    1. “The chair appointed Messrs. Flynn, Dorsey, and Fine to the committee.”

 

(10)The meeting adjourned at 10:05 P.M.

Paragraph 10:

  1. The last paragraph of the minutes always states the time of adjournment.

 

(11)Margaret Duffy, Secretary

Paragraph 11:

  1. The bottom of the minutes should be signed by the Secretary. It may also be signed by the President, but it must be signed by the Secretary. The phrase “Respectfully submitted” may be included, but is not required and represents an older practice. When the minutes get approved, the Secretary should add the word “Approved” at the bottom of the minutes, with their initials and the date. For example, “Approved BM (9/27/21)”

Hopefully, that gives you a better understanding on how to write minutes for your chapter meetings. For more detailed information and instruction, please refer to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 12th Edition Section 48 Paragraphs 1-15 (Pages 446-452). As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions at Secretary [at] patsa.org, or hit up our Parliamentarian James Coppersmith at Parliamentarian [at] patsa.org.

 

Best wishes,

Benny Moldovsky

2021-2022 PA-TSA Secretary


Full Excerpt of Minutes from Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 12th Edition (RONR (12th ed.) 48:8):

The regular monthly meeting of the L.M. Society was held on Thursday, January 4, 20__, at 8:30 P.M., at the Society’s building, the President being in the chair and the Secretary being present. The minutes of the last meeting were read and approved as corrected.

The Treasurer reported the receipt of a bill from the Downs Construction Company in the amount of $5,000 for the improvements recently made in the Society’s building. The question put by the chair “that the bill be paid” was adopted.

Mr. Johnson, reporting on behalf of the Membership Committee, moved “that John R. Brown be admitted to membership in the Society.” The motion was adopted after debate.

The report of the Program Committee was received and placed on file.

The Special committee that was appointed to investigate and report on suitable parking facilities near the Society’s building reported, through its chairman, Mrs. Smith, a resolution, which, after debate and amendment, was adopted as follows: “Resolved, That … [its exact words immediately before being acted upon, incorporating all amendments].”

The resolution relating to the use of the Society’s library by nonmembers, which was postponed from the last meeting, was then taken up. This motion and a pending amendment were laid on the table after the chair announced that the guest speaker had received a phone message which would require his early departure.

The President introduced the guest speaker, Mr. James F. Mitchell, whose subject was _____.

At the conclusion of Mr. Mitchell’s talk, the resolution relating to the use of the Society’s library by nonmembers was taken from the table. After amendment and further debate, the resolution was adopted as follows: “Resolved, That … [its exact wording immediately before being finally voted on].”

Mr. Gordon moved “that the Society undertake the establishment of a summer camp for boys on its lake front property.” Mrs. Thomas moved to amend this motion by inserting the word “underprivileged” before “boys.” On motion of Mr. Dorsey, the motion to establish the camp, with the pending amendment, was referred to a committee of three to be appointed by the chair with instruction to report at the next meeting. The chair appointed Messrs. Flynn, Dorsey, and Fine to the committee.

The meeting adjourned at 10:05 P.M.

Margaret Duffy, Secretary