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).

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In business writing, minutes are the official written record of a meeting. Minutes are generally written in the simple past tense. They serve as a permanent record of the topics considered, conclusions reached, actions taken, and assignments given. They're also a record of which individuals made contributions to the meeting in terms of new ideas and how those ideas were received. If there is a vote taken at a meeting, the minutes serve as a record of who voted for and who voted against a proposal, which can be taken into consideration in future when the consequences of either implementing or rejecting that proposal come to fruition.

Who Takes the Minutes?

Some minutes are kept by a recording secretary, an employee specifically tasked with taking minutes, keeping all records and files, tracking attendance and voting records, and reporting to the appropriate designated parties (for instance a board of directors or the upper management of a business). However, minutes may be kept by any individual in attendance at a meeting and are generally distributed to all members of the unit represented at the meeting.

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 business 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–A report on each topic discussed at the meeting. This can include unfinished business from the previous 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

"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."
(From "Technical Communication," Ninth Edition by Mike Markel)

Guidelines for Writing Meeting Minutes

  • The person writing the minutes should have the capability of doing so in real-time as the meeting progresses so that the finished product is in near-final form by meeting's end.
  • Minutes should concentrate on results and goal-oriented actions.
  • Good minutes are brief and to the point. They are not verbatim accounts, but rather concise, coherent summaries. Summaries should include points of agreement and disagreement but don't require every last detail.
  • Minutes can be used as source material for a report or memo, however, they should be written for the purpose of recapitulating events for those who attended a meeting, rather than for those who did not.
  • Minutes should be completed and distributed promptly after a meeting (rule of thumb is within a day or two).

Source

  • Hiebert, Murray; Klatt, Bruce. "The Encyclopedia of Leadership: A Practical Guide to Popular Leadership." McGraw-Hill, 2001