Business Writing Tip #44—Useful words to use when writing up minutes

When you’re writing up the minutes of a meeting, particularly a long meeting, you might find that you keep using the same words over and over. In fact, the attendees at the meeting probably did this and your notes reflect what they said. But such repetition in a written document is likely to make it harder to read. People may get bored…

Sometimes you can get around this by changing how you write the minutes. When you’re recording a discussion and find yourself writing, repeatedly, ‘Ms X said…’ and ‘Mr Y said…’ you can reword the text to leave out the names.minutes

Example:

‘Ms Johnson said that the logistics department’s computer system was having trouble handling the volume of transactions and might crash.’

Becomes:

‘The logistics department’s computer system is having trouble handling the volume of transactions and might crash.’

Now this is all well and good, but sometimes you need to find other words. Next time you’re looking for different ways to write things, take a look at these lists.

When there has been some talk about a topic:

  • analysed
  • considered
  • debated
  • deliberated
  • discussed
  • examined

When something is suggested, or an idea put forward:

  • hoped
  • intended
  • meant
  • planned
  • proposed

When people disagree:

  • disagreed
  • disputed
  • not the case

And, when they agree:

  • agreed
  • concurred

Words for the ‘thing’ being discussed:

  • challenge of…
  • existence of…
  • issue of…
  • problem of…
  • question of…
  • topic of…

Words for ‘things’ the meeting is comparing:

  • alternatives
  • choice
  • opportunity
  • options
  • preference

Words for talking about the positive aspects of something:

  • advantages of
  • benefits of
  • merits of
  • value of
  • worth

And words for the negative aspects:

  • dangers
  • disadvantages
  • drawbacks
  • problems
  • risks
  • uncertainty

When the meeting expresses a preference for one thing over another:

  • chose
  • name
  • opt
  • pick
  • prefer
  • select

And if someone isn’t happy with something they might be:

  • anxious
  • apprehensive
  • concerned
  • troubled
  • uneasy
  • worried

If something might be possible, you can talk about the:

  • chance
  • likelihood
  • possibility
  • potential
  • probability
  • prospects

And when the meeting agrees, they:

  • approved
  • concluded
  • decided
  • determined
  • resolved

In amongst all of this you will probably want to write that someone said something. ‘Say’ is, in my book, a perfectly good verb. But in the minutes of a long meeting you might want some variety so you can go with Ms X or Mr Y:

  • acknowledged
  • added
  • advised
  • clarified
  • commented
  • confirmed
  • declared
  • defined
  • demonstrated
  • described
  • drew attention to
  • emphasised
  • established
  • explained
  • highlighted
  • illustrated
  • indicated
  • informed
  • outlined
  • pointed out
  • raised
  • recalled
  • reported
  • said
  • stated
  • suggested
  • understood
  • verified
  • reminded the meeting that

Business Writing Tip 43—More Minute-Taking Tips

I’ve already given you some tips for minute-taking in a previous post. Here are some more. They’re more about your preparation than about the actual writing of the minutes. Prepare well and writing the minutes will be much easier.

Before the meetingMal_Leeds_Meetings_03

  1. Read the agenda and the papers. If you don’t know some of the vocabulary, check in a dictionary or ask for someone’s help. Become familiar with the language and the content.
  2. Talk to the chairperson and ask if they can give you some idea of what is to be covered, what kinds of decisions will be made and to lay down ground rules. For example, if you don’t understand something, are you allowed to ask for clarification during the meeting? Can you summarise a point during the meeting to clarify it?
  3. Become familiar with the participants. Talk to them if you have a chance so that you are familiar with their voices and accents. Learn which face belongs to which name so that you’re not struggling with who’s who during the actual meeting. If you don’t know everyone, check if it’s okay to use name plates on the tables so that you can quickly see who is speaking.

At the meeting

  1. Use a system of initials to record people’s contributions. If you have two people with the same initials, work out a code to identify which is which.
  2. Record your notes in bullet point format (not sentences and essay style) and leave lots of white space. Make sure you have plenty of paper.

After the meeting

  1. Write up your minutes as soon as possible after the meeting, preferably on the same day, while your memory is fresh. You’re less likely to make mistakes then. 

Business Writing Tip No 42—It’s About Who and Why

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I think it’s worth repeating. When you are writing anything—whether it’s a sales letter, an email to a client, a memo to your team or a letter to Mum—you need to keep in mind why you are writing and who you are writing to/for.

I’m repeating this message because it is so very important.

Lindsay Camp puts it beautifully in Can I Change Your Mind?, a book about how to write persuasively. Camp offers a delightfully simple way to keep this message in your mind by remembering the Three Rs. Not the traditional Three Rs of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic. But rather the Three Rs of persuasive writing:

Remember the Reader and the Result’.

can i change your mind cover

Happy writing, and remember the Three Rs!

Business Writing Tip No 41—Giving Examples

You can tell a lazy writer. They’re the ones who, when they give examples, always write something along the lines of:

You can easily move around Prague using public transport, e.g. buses or trains.

When you need to include many examples in your writing, using ‘e.g.’ all the time can easily become repetitive and boring. You want your readers to enjoy reading what you have written. You want your writing to flow.

Here are some phrases you can use when you provide examples.

  • for one

Several people haven’t had a chance to review the report yet. My boss, for one.

  • take for instance

Many fast food chains can be found in most of the world’s capital cities. Take for instance KFC.

  • to name (just) a few

The companies that will be presenting at the conference are impressive: Google, Apple, P World, to name just a few.

pworld

  • a good example is

Some Czech companies provide information on their websites in both Czech and English. A good example is The Prague Public Transport Company.

  • a case in point is

In some restaurants it’s really difficult to get vegetarian food. A case in point is The Meat Factory, where it’s virtually impossible unless all you want is a salad.

  • alone

The organisation’s sales have improved across the board. Sales of toothpaste alone rose by 2% in the last quarter.

  • a typical/classic case

The failure of the fast food chain was a typical case of an organisation not researching its market well enough.

  • like

Low cost airlines like Wizz Air and Ryan Air charge passengers extra if they have luggage or if their cabin baggage is too large.

  • such as

Major UK stores, such as Tescos, have been expanding their presence in Europe in recent years.