Do you need to write up the minutes of a meeting in English following a meeting with English-speaking participants?
A key document in many companies, the minutes of a meeting are subject to a degree of formality and you need to know how to write them in an effective, fluid, but also structured way.
What are minutes?
The minutes of a meeting comprise of a document that summarises the exchanges between different participants and the major decisions taken during that meeting.
What is the purpose of the minutes of a meeting?
The main objective of this document is to keep a transparent written record of what was said, and to provide each participant with a clear and structured summary of the conversation and decisions taken. In this way, everyone involved knows the agenda, their role, tasks and objectives, including those who were unable to attend the meeting.
It is also a way of avoiding any confusion or ambiguity that could generate disputes or conflicts. The report may be required for legal purposes by certain authorities.
Minutes are systematically taken for certain types of meetings, such as a board of directors, a works council or a general meeting with the decision-makers of a company. However, minutes can also be very useful for formalising an action plan during an operational team meeting (for example, as part of the start-up of a new project, a change of management, or a review, etc.).
Who writes the minutes of a meeting?
Most often, the minutes are written by one of the participants in the meeting. They can also be taken by a secretary or by an external service provider. The person is appointed before the meeting starts and is responsible for taking notes throughout the discussion.
When do you need to write minutes in English?
You would need to do this if the meeting is held in English, or if the document is to be shared with English-speaking contacts (a business partner, a client, a shareholder, multicultural teams, etc.).
It may also be necessary to translate the minutes into English from a document written in another language or vice versa.
Elements to include in the minutes of a meeting in English
The following are the main elements that should be included in the minutes of a meeting:
- the names (and possibly job titles) of the participants in the meeting (meeting attendees) and of any people who are absent that need to be represented
- the name of the person writing the report
- the recipients
- the place and date of the meeting
- the meeting agenda
- a summary of the exchanges
- all decisions and measures taken/to be taken (with, for each measure, the date of completion and the objective sought)
- the action plan
After the minutes have been written, they should be proofread and validated by all participants. If the minutes have been written in English by a non-native English speaker, it may be very beneficial to have them proofread by a professional native English speaker.
How to take minutes in English?
The purpose of the minutes is to summarise what was discussed but also to summarise the actions decided.
When writing minutes in English, it is important to find out about the specific standards of the destination country and the company concerned. It is important to know that some companies have compliance requirements when writing minutes of meetings. It is therefore important to take into account any formal requirements.
Prepare notes well before the meeting
During the meeting, the person responsible for writing the minutes will have to take careful notes throughout the discussion. It is important to anticipate this step, to prepare the meeting well and to organise yourself beforehand to ensure that the notes are taken effectively. To do this, you should first find out about the purpose of the meeting, its duration, the number of participants, the planned organisation, etc.
Also take time to list the different elements that should be included in the minutes. This will allow you to define the overall framework and not forget anything.
To be able to write up the minutes after a meeting in English, you should have an excellent understanding of the language in order to be able to ask a participant to repeat themselves or to repeat something that has been interrupted, etc. You could also record the exchange to help you.
Some good practices to be aware of when taking minutes in English
The following are some good practices to be aware of to help you write up high-quality, clear and readable minutes in English, based on the notes taken during the exchange:
- Exclude informal comments, hesitations, colloquial words, etc. To do this, you should have a good understanding of business English
- Structure your minutes: with a heading, titles with the main topics on the agenda and sub-headings (points discussed, decisions, measures, etc.)
- Eliminate redundancies, detours, digressions, unfinished business...
- Take care of the writing: style, syntax, grammar and spelling in English must be impeccable
- After the meeting, don't wait too long to write up the minutes (do it whilst the discussions are still fresh in your mind)
- Remain neutral and factual (do not include personal remarks or observations)
What are the different formats for taking minutes in English?
It is important to know that there are different formats for taking minutes of meetings, such as:
The full report
Also known as a "verbatim report", it aims to provide a comprehensive record of what was said. The exchanges are transcribed and then reformulated. This is a fairly rare format, and is often reserved for legal requirements. The meeting is often recorded to facilitate transcription.
Reporting on actions
This format consists of reporting on the main decisions taken at the meeting: the actions to be taken, the deadlines and the distribution of roles. The format is short, and the aim here is to provide a clear and quick overview.
The summary report of the discussions
This format consists of summarising the main points of the meeting, removing redundancies and digressions. This is one of the most commonly used formats. It provides a clear and accurate summary of the important points.
The choice of format will depend mainly on the purpose of the minutes: is the document intended for archiving, for internal communication with a multicultural team, or is it intended to be shared with English-speaking external parties (investors, business partners, etc.)?
Who can I ask to write up minutes in English?
It should be noted that writing up minutes in English is far from easy, even if someone has a high level of English.
Indeed, the minutes of a meeting in English are both technical and very precise. The writer has to use specialist terminology and write in a formal and consistent way.
The best way to ensure that your minutes are of a high-standard is to use a native speaker.
If the meeting has been recorded, you can turn to a transcription service provider. At Alphatrad, for example, we offer transcriptions in English and many other languages.
We also offer proofreading services for multilingual content, so that you can benefit from the revision and correction of your English meeting minutes.
Finally, if you wish to have minutes translated from or into English, we can provide you with a professional translator who specialises in your sector of activity.
→ Please note: it is important to use a professional from the English-speaking country involved in the translation. This is because there are some differences in language between British and American English.
Our answers to your questions about writing minutes of meetings in English
Taking minutes in English requires excellent language skills. You should first take careful notes at the meeting, before writing the minutes in professional English. Alternatively, you can record the meeting and have the minutes transcribed in English by a multilingual language services agency. At the very least, it is advisable to have the minutes proofread by a native speaker. If you wish to translate the minutes, you will need to use a professional translator who specialises in your field.
The minutes of a meeting is a structured written document that must contain certain specific information (date, purpose of the meeting, names of participants, etc.). The minutes can take several forms (summary minutes, exhaustive minutes, minutes of actions, etc.), but they should always be written in a formal and neutral style. Indeed, the minutes should only contain facts (like some journalistic texts, for example).
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