EtymologyFrom the plural of the English minute.
- Plural of minute
- The official notes kept during a meeting.
- Plural of minute
Minutes also known as protocols, are the instant written record of a meeting or hearing. They often give an overview of the structure of the meeting, starting with a list of those present, a statement of the various issues before the participants, and each of their responses thereto. They are often created at the moment of the hearing by a typist or court recorder at the meeting, who may record the meeting in shorthand, and then type the minutes and issue them to the participants afterwards. Alternatively, the meeting may be audiorecorded and the minutes typed later. The minutes of certain entities, such as a corporate board of directors, must be kept and are important legal documents.
Public minutesMost public meetings and governmental hearings follow prescribed rules. Often speakers' words are recorded verbatim, or with only minor paraphrasing, so that every speaker's comments are included. This is generally required at public hearings that are called to address a particular issue, as distinct from other types of public meetings, which may not strictly require verbatim records of all comments made.
The careful recording of a meeting, i.e. the writing of minutes, is an essential part of a meeting though it involves time and expense even after the meeting has ended. There are no strict rules in writing minutes. Minutes may be written in detail or in brief depending on the anticipated readership. But the main elements are always the same (sometimes some of them are omitted):
- Where and when a meeting took place;
- Present, i.e. the names of the participants;
- Apologies, i.e. the names of those absent;
- Minutes of the previous meeting;
- Items on the agenda: the discussion held, the motions made, the resolutions carried (Proposer; Seconder; the results of the vote);
- Any Other Business (AOB);
- Date of the next meeting.
When writing the minutes of a meeting it is good practice to use a variety of verbs of speaking.
There is considerable debate over what should be included in meeting minutes. Within certain limits, businesses and private organizations may follow whatever rules they choose. Minutes may be as detailed and comprehensive as a transcription, or as short and concise as a bare list of the resolutions adopted or decisions made. While most non-governmental minutes are not in practice seen by the public, many stakeholders find a bare list of decisions to be frustrating, as they want more information about which individuals supported (or did not support) particular issues.
However, in a large group that deals with many different issues, it may be very difficult to present a happy middle ground, as people are likely to have slightly different ideas about the tone of any given discussion, or the importance of a specific topic, and so on. Consequently, most organizations go to either extreme, depending primarily on their notion of privacy (speakers may want to ask questions without fear of being perceived as ignorant) and accountability (members may want to know who to blame).
In general, if a question is included, you should also include the responses. Commonly though, many minute-takers omit this obvious and essential part of the record.
FormatGenerally, minutes begin with the organization name, place, date, list of people present, and the time that the chair called the meeting to order. Minutes then record what actually happens at a meeting, usually in the order that it actually happens, regardless of whether the meeting follows (or ignores) any written agenda. A less often used format may record the actions in the order they occur on the written agenda, regardless of the actual chronology.
Since the primary function of minutes is to record the decisions made, any and all official decisions must be included. If a formal motion is made, seconded, passed, or not, then this is recorded. The vote tally may also be included. The part of the minutes dealing with a routine motion might note merely that a particular motion was "moved by Ann, seconded by Bob, and passed unanimously." Where a tally is included, it is sufficient to record the number of people voting for and against a motion (or abstaining), but requests by participants to note their votes by name may be allowed. If a decision is made by roll call vote, then all of the individual votes are often recorded by name. If it is made by consensus without a formal vote, then this fact may be recorded. Tallies may be omitted in some cases (e.g. a minute might read "After voting, the Committee agreed to...").
It is also often common for adherents to the "less is more" approach to include certain facts: for example, that financial reports were presented, or that a legal issue (such as a potential conflict of interest) was discussed, or that a particular aspect of an issue was duly considered, or that a person arrived late (or left early) at a particular time. The minutes may end with a note of the time that the meeting was adjourned.
Minutes in businesses and other private organizations are sometimes submitted by and over the name of an officer of the organization (usually the Secretary, and never the typist, even if the typist actually drafted the document) at a subsequent meeting for review. The traditional closing phrase is "Respectfully submitted," (although that phrase is slowly falling out of use) followed by the officer's signature, his or her typed (or printed) name, and his or her title.
If the members of the committee or group agree that the written minutes reflect what happened at the meeting, then they are approved, and the fact of their approval is recorded in the minutes of the current meeting. If there are errors or omissions, then the minutes will be re-drafted and submitted again at a later date. Minor changes may be made immediately, and the amended minutes may be approved "as amended." It is normally appropriate to give a draft copy of the minutes to the other members in advance of the meeting so that the meeting need not be delayed while everyone reads and corrects the draft. It is not usually considered appropriate to vote to approve minutes for a meeting which one did not attend. It is also unwise to approve minutes which one has not read.
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, entry on Minutes. West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1991.
minutes in German: Ergebnisprotokoll
minutes in Spanish: Minuta
minutes in Dutch: Notulen
minutes in Finnish: Pöytäkirja
minutes in Swedish: Mötesprotokoll
account, account rendered, accounting, acta, adversaria, aide-memoire, annotation, annual, brief, bulletin, census report, docket, election returns, entry, footnote, item, jotting, marginal note, marginalia, memo, memoir, memorandum, memorial, notation, note, proceedings, register, registry, reminder, report, returns, scholia, scholium, statement, tally, the record, transactions, yearbook