Minutes in Business Writing

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Minutes are "a record of what was done at [a] meeting, not what was said" (Nancy Sylvester, The Guerrilla Guide to Robert's Rules, 2006). (Morsa Images/Getty Images)

In business writing, minutes are the official written record of a meeting. Minutes serve as a permanent record of the topics considered, conclusions reached, actions taken, and assignments given. 

Minutes may be kept by any individual in attendance at a meeting and are usually distributed to all members of the unit represented at the meeting. 

Minutes are generally written in the simple past tense.

The Main Parts of Meeting Minutes

Many organizations use a standard template or a special format for keeping minutes, and the order of the parts may vary.

  • Heading
    The name of the committee (or other unit) and the date, location, and starting time of the meeting.
  • Participants
    The name of the person conducting the meeting along with the names of all those who attended the meeting (including guests) and those who were excused from attending.
  • Approval of previous minutes
    A note on whether the minutes of the previous meeting were approved and whether any corrections were made.
  • Action items (including unfinished business from the previous meeting)
    A report on each topic discussed at the meeting. (For each item, note the subject of the discussion, the name of the person who led the discussion, and any decisions that may have been reached.)
  • Announcements
    A report on any announcements made by participants, including proposed agenda items for the next meeting.
  • Next Meeting
    A note on where and when the next meeting will be held.
  • Adjournment
    A note on the time the meeting ended.
  • Signature line
    The name of the person who prepared the minutes and the date they were submitted.

Observations

  • "A good set of minutes can give the group a sense of progress; incoherent jottings (which may more closely resemble verbatim transcripts) leave everyone bewildered."
    (David R. Buchanan, An Ethic for Health Promotion: Rethinking the Sources of Human Well-Being. Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • "In writing minutes, be clear, comprehensive, objective, and diplomatic. Do not interpret what happened; simply report it. Because meetings rarely follow the agenda perfectly, you might find it challenging to provide an accurate record of the meeting. If necessary, interrupt the discussion to request clarification.
    "Do not record emotional exchanges between participants. Because minutes are the official record of the meeting, you want them to reflect positively on the participants and the organization."
    (Mike Markel, Technical Communication, 9th ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2010)
  • Guidelines for Writing Meeting Minutes
    - The recorder should be able to write the minutes in near final form as the meeting progresses.
    - The minutes should focus on results and agreed-on actions. . . .
    - The minutes should be highly summarized, not a burden to read. Be brief; summarize outcomes and points of agreement and disagreement; don't record detailed input.
    - Avoid writing minutes for the purpose of informing those who were not at the meeting. . . .
    - Write the minutes soon after the meeting and distribute them promptly (within a day or two).
    (Murray Hiebert and Bruce Klatt, The Encyclopedia of Leadership: A Practical Guide to Popular Leadership. McGraw-Hill, 2001)
  • The Lighter Side of Minutes

    Russell "Stringer" Bell: [W]hat is that?

    Sean "Shamrock" McGinty: Robert Rules say we gotta have minutes for a meeting, right? These the minutes.

    Russell "Stringer" Bell: [I]s you taking notes on a criminal . . . conspiracy?
    (Idris Elba and Richard Burton in "Straight and True." The Wire, 2004)

​​Other Grammatical Resources

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Nordquist, Richard. "Minutes in Business Writing." ThoughtCo, Aug. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/minutes-business-writing-term-1691316. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, August 13). Minutes in Business Writing. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/minutes-business-writing-term-1691316 Nordquist, Richard. "Minutes in Business Writing." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/minutes-business-writing-term-1691316 (accessed November 21, 2017).