Tips for Writing Meeting Minutes

Do you want to be more efficient? Think about your meetings and the meeting notes that follow them:

When our meetings aren't effective, we waste valuable time figuring out what we are trying to accomplish in them.

When our meeting minutes aren't effective, we waste the time we spent in meetings. Without good meeting notes or minutes, we may not remember or recognize:

  • What we decided in the meeting
  • What we accomplished in the meeting
  • What we agreed to in terms of next steps (action items)

And when we can't remember the items above, we end up going in different directions and then meeting again for the same original purpose!

(Definition: Notes and minutes are the same thing. Minutes are more formal and are often required by organizational bylaws.)

To avoid wasting your time spent in meetings, be sure your notes and minutes answer these 10 questions:

  1. When was the meeting?
  2. Who attended?
  3. Who did not attend? (Include this information if it matters.)
  4. What topics were discussed?
  5. What was decided?
  6. What actions were agreed upon?
  7. Who is to complete the actions, by when?
  8. Were materials distributed at the meeting? If so, are copies or a link available?
  9. Is there anything special the reader of the minutes should know or do?
  10. Is a follow-up meeting scheduled? If so, when? where? why?

Minutes need headings so that readers can skim for the information they need. Your template may include these:

Topics
Decisions
Actions Agreed Upon
      Person responsible
      Deadline
Next Meeting
      Date and Time
      Location
      Agenda items


Dos and Don'ts:

Do write minutes soon after the meeting–preferably within 48 hours. That way, those who attended can be reminded of action items, and those who did not attend will promptly know what happened.

Don't skip writing minutes just because everyone attended the meeting and knows what happened. Meeting notes serve as a record of the meeting long after people forget what happened.

Don't describe all the "he said, she said" details unless those details are very important. Record topics discussed, decisions made, and action items.

Don't include any information that will embarrass anyone (for example, "Then Terry left the room in tears").

Do use positive language. Rather than describing the discussion as heated or angry, use passionate, lively, or energetic–all of which are just as true as the negative words.

To learn more about taking great meeting notes, take my online self-study course Meeting Notes Made Easy

 

154 COMMENTS

  1. your tips will help me draft better MOM from today. i m impressed. i would continue reading your notes. please keep sending me emails if possible.
    good work! keep it up.

  2. Saeed Ahmed, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter if you want regular emails from me. You can do that on my website, syntaxtraining.com. Or sign up for this blog’s feed.

    Best wishes,

    Lynn

  3. I am due to start a new job which will require some degree of minutetaking and making sense of dictation from a dictaphone. Although I have taken minutes before ( a while back ) I am nervous as the Terminology will be different within this line of work. Can you give me any advice on how to go about writing and abreviating minutes?

  4. Hi, Aryssa. Read my blog entry for December 16, 2007. It includes a link to an article, “Meeting Notes Made Easy.”

    Good luck!

    Lynn

  5. I have been requested to be taking minutes during our Board Meetings. Please can you advise me the tense I shoud use when writing minutes. I know it is a reported speech.
    Thanks
    Adeyemi

  6. Adeyemi, past tense would probably be appropriate, as in “Dr. Rey reported” and “the group decided.” However, I suggest that you ask for samples of past minutes so you can do what previous notetakers have done.

    Good luck!

  7. I have always had a hard time trying to get everyones information and trying to pick out what was important. have any good ideas for me?

  8. Your guideline is very good. Am a secretary of wedding committee please send me sample of minutes

  9. Good afternoon

    I am a secretary; I will be starting a new job very soon and so would like to know about business meeting minutes.

    Thank you

  10. Joan, read my blog entry for December 16, 2007, “Be Kind to Your Note Taker.” (Do a Google search on this site.) The entry includes a link to a helpful article “Meeting Notes Made Easy.”

    Good luck!

  11. I am looking for a workshop to learn to write minutes better. Do you know of any in northern California? I seem to only find ones in Australia and the UK…

  12. Hi, Brooke. I do not know of any such classes in Northern California. However, I am teaching Note-Taking Made Easy in Seattle on Wednesday, March 18. The flyer is not available yet, but when it is finished, I will send it to you.

    Lynn

  13. i have been asked by my director to take minutes for management meeting, i did it for the first time, but my director said my grammer is not the best, what should i do? please help me out.

  14. Marian, there are many things you can do. Begin with these five steps:

    1. Use a grammar and spelling checker for everything you write. It will catch errors such as “i” for “I” and “grammer” for “grammar.”

    2. Write short, clear sentences with one idea. For example, this is correct:

    I am a Ghanaian. Please give me some advice. I want to improve my grammar. I am ready to learn.

    3. Always capitalize the first word in a sentence.

    4. Get my “60 Quick Word Fixes,” which is featured in the right-hand column of this blog.

    5. Ask your coworkers to help you find your errors. When you make an error, find out what is wrong. Then do not make that error again.

    Best wishes,

    Lynn

  15. Thank you for these wonderful tips and comments on writing meeting minutes. I have been taking meeting minutes for the last six months in an Academic Medicine environment. The terminolgy can be a real challenge. I would like to save some time with re-listening to the entire meeting to create accurate minutes. Any suggestions for best way to record minutes and find what you need quickly? thank you, Lori

  16. When referring to people during the typing up of minutes, we are currently referring to people who attended the meeting by their initials e.g. GL. However, individuals not actually at the meeting are referred to by their full name e.g. John Smith. Is this correct?

  17. I don’t recommend referring to anyone by initials, unless an individual is known generally by initials (for example, JC for Juan Carlos).

    Using initials forces readers to continually review the list of attendees to recognize who is meant.

  18. though i have completed my diplome in secretarial, i still need to know much more on how to write the letters and minutes

  19. At our last board meeting a member requested that previously approved minutes be revised. I have done that but would like to know if these revised minutes need to go on the upcoming agenda for teh next meeting? Do the revised minutes need to be approved again?

  20. your tips on how to write minute has realy helped me to improve brilliantly on minute writing.

  21. Dear Lynn,

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and viewpoints so generously.

    I have a question on the use of subject lines in email.

    Some people put their whole (short) message in the subject line, and there’s nothing to read when the reader opens the message.

    Don’t you think that this is sloppy and unprofessional?

    Jolynn

  22. When using reported speech in minutes, the reporting verb should obviously be a past-tense one.

    What about verbs in the reported clause? For example: The President reminded members that security in the club (is/was) everyone’s responsibility.

    If the issue is still current, should it not be “is”, although grammatically it sounds awkward?

    Jolynn

  23. Hi, Jolynn. You can find the answer to your question about subject lines if you use the search string “Blips on the Email Screen” on this site.

    As for the tense of verbs, I recommend the present tense for your example: “The president reminded members that security IS important.” If you use “was,” you suggest that the president believes security is no longer important.

  24. Your notes are splendid.I have been assisted much as an Anglican Diocesan Secretary-Mityana Anglican Diocese,Uganda East Africa.
    Humbly iam requesting you to be my mentor in secretarial issues.
    God bless you,
    DAVID KALEEBU+
    P.O BOX 286,MITYANA,UGANDA EAST AFRICA
    TEL+256772363839

  25. Thanks for your helpful tips. I always have a problem getting the important idea out of various submisions on an issue at a meeting.Pleasse kindly help me.

  26. yes! for a while now have been thinking on how to write a perfect and good minute when ever am in a meeting with my directors, but i find it hard, pls can any body send me copy or tips in writeing a perfect minute in a meeting!

  27. please i am ready to learn rather than to make mistake, pls LYNN you can as well give me tip and send me copy of it thanks………

  28. Am I correct in thinking that it should be ‘minute’ of a meeting and not ‘minutes’? One meeting. Singular. No?

  29. I have been asked be writing council of ministers minutes. could help on how to write such kind of minutes?

  30. I have been asked to be writing council of ministers meeting minutes hence, I need some help on how to write such kind of minutes since they need resolutions by the end.

  31. i dont have the slightest idea about minutes taking and very soon i’m going to start a new job that requires the knowledge of minutes taking. so could you please give me an advice on this topic? and i also need a sample minutes taken during a meeting. Thank you very much for your cooperation.
    regards,
    kiki

  32. I have never done minutes. I will be doing so in 2days time. As this is my first job in a bank, i am not only afraid that i am not able to extract the important information but also the new terms that are being used.Help!

  33. Adriana, relax. Here are some ideas:

    1. Get samples of other people’s minutes so you will see which format is customary at the bank.

    2. Sit next to a kind, wise person who is willing to whisper answers to your questions.

    3. Get as much written information as you can in advance. Ask people for copies of any notes they contribute to the meeting.

    4. Recognize that you will not do it perfectly the first time. Ask for help from more experienced note-takers.

    I am planning a live online class on taking notes at meetings, but it is not ready yet. I will let you know when it is.

    Good luck!

    Lynn

  34. Wow, I really appreciate for your tips on minutes writing as they helped me passing my coursework and continue guiding us the more.

  35. This page has been such a blessing. I am now having to take minutes in several executive meetings. I am supporting the executive director and chief medical officer. The meetings are horrible. I really need any help you can give. This is the only thing that seems to make me feel inadequate.

  36. After attending quite a few meetings, I am still unable to get the minutes accurate, i.e. what exactly should I record; how do I get my attention span going to record the most important things in a meeting. Can you give me some pointers?

    Abby

  37. hi, you have a very comprehensive tips, please assist me to improve my grammar,becouse i have a problem in addressing people in a meeting, send me a sample of your minutes in my email, thank you.

  38. when writing minutes, should a plural or singular verb be used with the following statement:The minutes of the previous meeting was/were read.

  39. hi, i have to say u provide excellent help. thank you for it. i am ateacher and i am a post gard student as well i study for my master’s in teaching english as a foreign lang. i am designing a course as a part of my assignments and it includes a unit on how to write minutes.do u know any website that can provide me with help concerning activities. i want to keep it very simple they are beginners. thanks again

  40. Completely agree that “when our meeting minutes aren’t effective, we waste the time we spent in meetings.”

    This is a problem not only due to the high likelihood of “meeting again for the same original purpose”, but for the added wasted time through the process communicating back and forth to pick up the detailed information necessary to complete the broad strokes of action items they do remember—yet aren’t able to complete successfully.

    That added stress is a big reason why meetings can suck, in lamest terms, yet it doesn’t have to be that way. On that note, I recently did a book review of Joanna Gutmann’s “Taking Minutes of Meetings” which explains the craft in a fashion that can help prevent this from happening: http://www.qworky.com/blog/2010/04/qworky-review-taking-minutes-of-meetings/

  41. This is my first time of visiting this site but its been helpful.
    I will always log on.

    Thank you.

  42. Hi Lynn,
    Thanks for much for those useful insights on how to write minutes.I am a university grad who studied media and communidcation and hoping to get a job that requires me writing minutes. i have always been
    afraid of not getting it right. please can you provide more help?
    Joyce – bennie

  43. Hi Lynn,

    Is there a handbook for this type of thing? I work in a medical environment where everybody knows everyone else. Usually people are mentioned by their first and last names, (John Smith) without the MD or PhD. The questions has come up as to whether or not we should add the titles to the minutes. Is there some standard for this kind of thing?

    Thanks,

    Beky

  44. Hi, Beky. So you are deciding whether to add degrees such as MD and PhD to your minutes. Do you normally include degrees in your documents?

    Why not add degrees to the list of attendees if that is the norm? Then you can use just names in the body of the minutes.

    You may want to check with your communications department for advice.

    I do not know of a standard for titles and degrees in minutes. Some organizations use formal titles such as “Commissioner” before names. Others use first and last names. Others use a title and last name like this: Dr. Smith, Dean Gomez.

    Good luck.

    Lynn

  45. Hi,

    I’m wondering what I should do with action items that have not been completed and will not until a time later in the year? As an example, I take monthly meeting minutes for a committee at a university and if an action item cannot be completed until the fall semester starts, should these items stay on every set of minutes with “not completed” or “carried over”, or should this item be removed from the minutes until the time arrives when it can be completed? And, if this is the case, how do you remember to put them back in at that time?

    Thanks

    Nancy

  46. Nancy, that is an excellent question. Your solution to keep the action items on the minutes as “Carried over” is a good one. “Carried over” sounds efficient, whereas “Not completed” suggests an oversight.

    Do you have a section at the end of your minutes where you list action items? If so, the “Carried over” items can be included there in a special category.

    Thanks for the interesting question.

    Lynn

  47. I am very much delighted your site .so could u plz send me the one example or a copy of minutes plz
    Pralhad Pokhrel

  48. last week i attended meeting first time , and my boss asked me to write minutes meeting…can you help how to do

  49. Material is good. Grateful if you would keep me posted on your up-to-date material on Managing Business Meetings; Procedures and important Terms used as and when

  50. I am a very junior receptionist who has been intrusted with very important duties.I need you to please send me a copy of professional munites please?

  51. Lynn,
    I just stumbled upon this website. I am afraid of writing minutes or reports. I am always at loss of words and putting my thoughts together and express it correctly. I need to improve my vocabulary and writing skills. It takes me lot of time to put things together in an organized manner. Would appreciate your suggestions and guidance.

    Thank you for putting these great tips here

    SS

  52. SS, there are many ways to improve your business writing skills and your confidence. One is to read this blog. Another is to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, “Better Writing at Work.” You can sign up at:
    http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html

    Scroll up and look at the list of blogs and other resources I have featured on the left of your screen. Visit the sites you find helpful.

    Our online writing classes will begin again in January. When you see the class “Meeting Notes Made Easy” offered, I encourage you to take it.

    Keep working at it, and your confidence and skills will improve. Good luck!

    Lynn

  53. Lynn

    I’ve taken 3 times minutes writing for the meeting. I used to have the recorder with me but still having problems of summarizing it. I need your help, please.

  54. Anna, please watch for the January Meeting Notes Made Easy class, which I will teach online. You can enroll in it.

    From your comment, I am guessing that you are taking notes in English as a second or third language. It would be a good idea for you to work on your written English skills too.

    On this site, please look at the left column, near the top. You will see two sites I recommend: (1) Interactive ESL Quizzes and (2) Interesting Things for ESL/EFL Students. Both those sites can help you improve your skills in English.

    Good luck!

    Lynn

  55. I am a secretary at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. This is my first time of visiting your site and I am very much impressed. Please I will be happy if you can send me tips on detailed minutes writing.

  56. hi
    am to submit a meeting minutes to two chairman of an association
    how do i going by it? thank you
    yaa

  57. thank you so much for deciding to help people. i want to find out from you whether it is acceptable when writing minutes to have statements such as “John said”. i used to think it should rather be “John stated”. please teach me which is correct. thanks

  58. I have done one of your ‘Don’ts. Started my own business, and had a meeting 5 days ago, with someone who I appointed to be my PR. We agreed that I would write down the minutes as soon as possible, but was really struggling on how to, until today.
    Thank you very much for this useful website, its been a great help.
    Anna

  59. Hi. I’ve just been assigned the task of writing the meetings of our execom meeting. I’m total inexperienced but very willing to learn. I find it hard to get the keypoint or summary per agenda becuase of so many rebuttables and people giving comments that i might miss out a very important point if i shortened the whole convensation. I’m afraid that i might end up transcribing the whole meeting. I desperately need your help. Thank you and god bless you.

  60. Hi, Grace. If you are new at taking meeting notes, it is a good idea to tape record the meeting. Digital recorders allow you to have tracks, and you can create different tracks for different parts of the meeting. This feature is helpful if you want to listen again to just a certain part of the meeting to be sure you got the details down correctly.

    My next online Meeting Notes Made Easy class is on May 12, 2011. You can find a link to the flyer for the class in the upper left corner of this site.

    Good luck! Remember to breathe at the meeting.

    Lynn

  61. Please just give me an example of a minute writing.I am in JHS 3 who wants to know how ‘minute writing’ is writen.Please write one to me.

  62. Lynn now what if the company has its own format of writing minutes,is it okay for me to change it by following your tips?.Fridah N.S Uganda,East Africa

  63. Hi Lynn my question is,if the company i work for has its own way of writing minutes is it okay for me to use these tips to write the minutes?.Fridah N.S Uganda East Africa

  64. Fridah, I am glad you are excited about these ideas for writing meeting minutes.

    Normally it is a good idea to produce minutes in the style of your company. However, you can suggest ways to make the minutes more efficient.

    You can subscribe by email to this blog, “Business Writing,” by clicking on the link at the top of the right column, under the word “Subscribe.”

    You can sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter, “Better Writing at Work,” on this page: http://syntaxtraining.com/signup.html

    I wish you success with your meeting minutes.

    Lynn

  65. I am a student being interested in the business skill of writing and developing meeting minute.I have read many source regarding this subject of interst and have learn many things. Among these source I have found out that this website is of a great help to me.Thankyou so much for that.

  66. I usually recorded the minutes of meeting. I’ve taken five times minutes writing but still having difficulties to summarise.

  67. Hi Lynn,

    Very helpful article, beautifully presented. I shared with my whole team.

    Great Thanks,
    Manish.

  68. Hi Lynn,

    I hope you can clarify an issue I’ve just encountered for the first time in compiling formal meeting minutes. When one has two attendees with the same last name, what is the correct way to clarify which person is presenting within the minutes?

    For example, let’s say I have John Smith and Robert Smith. The meeting minutes format in my organization dictates that I write “Mr. Smith stated…” etc. When there are two “Mr. Smiths”, should I use “Mr. John Smith” and “Mr. Robert Smith” throughout? Is it acceptable to write “Mr. John Smith” the first time John presents and then use “Mr. J. Smith”?

    Thanks in advance for your help

  69. Hi, Coco. Interesting question! Since your style is to use “Mr. Smith,” I think it makes perfect to use “Mr. John Smith” and “Mr. Robert Smith.”

    It also seems defensible to use “Mr. J. Smith” and “Mr. R. Smith.”

    I would not, however, mix “Mr. John Smith” with “Mr. J. Smith.” It makes the reader pause to wonder whether you are referring to the same person.

    These are my common-sense views. You may get different opinions from others.

    Lynn

  70. Lynn, this answers my question perfectly. I hadn’t thought about the mixture of “Mr. John Smith” and “Mr. J. Smith” being confusing, so I’ll stick to “Mr. Robert Smith” and “Mr. John Smith” throughout the minutes. I appreciate your help!

  71. Hi Lynn,
    This article really helps me a lot in understanding the role of meeting minutes. Thank you very much!
    Actually, in our weekly meeting, my manager will present his PPT file in details, and during the presentation all the members make discussions. After meeting, I have to send them the meeting minutes and attach the PPT file.
    In this way, how should I write the meeting minutes and with what structure?

  72. Hi, Leyla. When you write the notes for your manager’s presentation, include only essential points that are not on the PowerPoint, along with any action items and decisions.

    If something is covered in the PowerPoint, you should not have to repeat it.

    See if that approach works for your manager and the meeting participants.

    Good luck!

    Lynn

  73. Hello this is my first time having a secretary position and i need to know how to write minutes. I panicked because i didn’t know how to properly format writing minutes.I am happy i found your website on this.This opened up my eyes and now i have a clear vision. thank you so much.

  74. I am currently a Personal Assistant to excecutives i want to learn how to write minutes in the meeting please help i like my job description

  75. Hi Lynn
    Could you please help me as I have to write meeting minutes regularly for our morning meeting in which we discuss some specific tasks assigned to some employees and Daily tasks assigned to Employees. Now i have to draft an illustration wherein I have to write How Daily Report should be written. Please Help.

    Regards
    Mishti

  76. I have to take meetings for a committee at work. A committee member asked that the meeting minutes reflect the materials that where prepared for the meeting. Where would you recommend inserting the list of materials made available?

  77. N, I would list each set of materials under the part of the discussion it pertains to. For example, if one of the presenters gave a brief talk on safety, I would list his or her PowerPoint under that part of the agenda.

    I hope that information helps.

    Lynn

  78. Hello,

    Meeting minutes have a singular? Or is it always “I have to write a meeting minutes” instead of “I need to write a meeting minute?”

    Thank you!

  79. Hello, Teyagu. The phrase “meeting minutes” does not have a singular form, and the article “a” is not used before it. You would NOT say “a meeting minutes.” The correct sentence is “I have to write meeting minutes.”

    Lynn

  80. Hi Lynn, I am currently a secretary but i want to know more about how i can write a good corporate meeting minute.It is very useful for me..pls guide & provide me format. pls reply me..

  81. i thank you so much for giving me tips of writing minutes. i was expecting you to give us an example of simple business staff meeting with all the points to gave to me. since my education level is low.
    than you so much.

  82. hello my Helper,

    i am to write a simple minutes concerning the welfare of nine (9)member staff welfare.

    please how do i go about it? thank you

  83. Hello, Vivian. Please follow the suggestions above. Remember that minutes tell what happened at a meeting. Describe what happened by answering the questions I listed in my post (article) above.

    Good luck!

    Lynn

  84. I have been requested to be taking minutes during our Board Meetings. Please can you advise me the tense I shoud use when writing minutes. I know it is a reported speech.
    Thanks
    Kimlive

  85. Hello Lynn i am a shareholder of a small company and have to write the minutes for the meetings i have no idea how to begin or end could you please give me a sample please.
    Thank you
    Marjorie

  86. am a secretary in a new organisation pls i want to know how to take a minute of the meeting during meeting,i have not taken minute before but now i have to. thank you Angela

  87. Goodafternoon, iam newly employer in a new company as a secretary ma pls i want to learn how to take minute of the meeting.

  88. I want to learn how to write minutes bcos I will be going for interview on Tuesday 21st oy may 2013.pls send it to my mail.

  89. I am an experienced Administrative Professional but still freak when trying to take minutes. I want to write perfect minutes. Please help.

    Yvonne

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