RE: Tech Writers taking minutes

Subject: RE: Tech Writers taking minutes
From: "Jonathan West" <jwest -at- mvps -dot- org>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 1 Jul 2002 19:26:45 +0100

When I'm secretary to a standards committee, I have to take the minutes.
Every chairman has his own preferences regarding the level of detail that
should be in the minutes, but generally all require the following:

- Date, time & place of the meeting
- A list of those attending
- A list of all documents tabled, with a statement regarding their disposal
(e.g. agreed, revised, rejected, withdrawn)
- A record of all decisions taken
- A record of any votes
- Where appropriate, a record of the reasons behind the decision (important
if the decision went one way or another on the basis of facts that are not
yet 100% certain and might need to be reviewed)
- A record of any major dissenting opinions
- A record of all actions assigned
- Anything else considered particularly important by the chairman or another
committee member, if a request is made during the meeting for it to be

The minutes generally do not have to be a verbatim record of everything
said, they are more of a summary. More than once, when the discussion
started going round in circles, I have included in the minutes "A long and
involved technical discussion followed, from which no firm conclusions
emerged." I've never had any complaint about that phrase, partly because it
was an accurate summary of the discussion, and partly because by the time
the minutes came to be read and approved, nobody could remember what they
had said in the first place!

On several occasions, when a contentious issue seems to be coming to
agreement, I have read out the form of words that I plan to put in the
minutes, to ensure that everyone can agree to it. I don't want the question
getting re-opened next meeting in the guise of a dispute over the minutes.

I regard the taking of effective minutes to be a significant TW skill. You
have to summarize effectively, take notes quickly and under pressure, and
distribute a document that will be reviewed by the participants who are all
by definition experts on the subject of the document - they were there at
the meeting! To do that, you really need either to have quite a bit of
knowledge of the subject under discussion, or be able to pick up the
essential points very quickly.

Jonathan West

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Re: Tech Writers taking minutes: From: Meg Halter

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