Minutes

The English word minutes can of course be used to refer to a period of time, but another slightly less frequent meaning is 'a summary of what happened at a meeting'. Thus, it corresponds to the Swedish term protokoll.

In terms of language use of the term, we can talk about someone taking the minutes or keeping the minutes to refer to the act of recording what is said and decided during a meeting.

The way minutes are written varies in terms of style and detail. However, in general, to be effective, minutes should be clear, accurate and impartial. Some of the more common points of information that the minutes of a meeting typically contain are (based on Kolin 2010):

  • date, time and place of meeting
  • names of those present and those absent
  • the approval or amendment of the minutes of the previous meeting (if the meeting is part of a series of meetings)
  • For each major point (action item), indicate:

-who said what
-what was discussed/suggested/proposed
-what was decided and the vote, including abstentions
-what was continued (tabled) for a subsequent meeting
-time of next meeting

Other things that could be recorded are the name of the person acting as the chair (or chairman, chairwoman, chairperson), the time when the meeting was officially concluded, and, in terms of absent members, whether any apologies had been received before the meeting. 

If the meeting happened for a specific purpose and is not part of a regular meeting series, then its purpose should be recorded.

Kolin (2010) on how to write concise and to-the-point minutes (click to expand/contract)

  • Make sure of your facts; spell all names [...] correctly
  • Concentrate on the major facts surrounding action items. Save the reader's time and your own by condensing lengthy discussions, debates, and reports given at the meeting.
  • Do not report verbatim what everyone said; readers will be more interested in what the group did.
  • Avoid words that interpret (negatively or positively) what the group or anyone in the group did or did not do.

Common terminology used in conjunction with writing minutes (click to expand/contract)

check/confirm/approve the minutes

   

Appoint someone to check that the text in the minutes correctly corresponds to what actually happened at a meeting.

Chairman/chair/chairwoman/chairperson

Person in charge of a meeting and often the person who called the meeting

Any other business (AOB)

An item on the agenda of a meeting where the members of the meeting may introduce items (proposals, motions, questions) not originally intended to be discussed.

abstention

the act of neither supporting nor rejecting a motion

to table an item

To decide that an item or part of it will be discussed again at a subsequent meeting