10 Tips for Taking Notes

By Maeve Maddox

Winston writes:

On my job, part of my responsibility is doing transcription. Often I attend scientific meetings and have to [take notes]. The notes/minutes are written as indirect quotes. Can you please give some guidance on taking meeting notes and minutes?

The purpose of taking minutes at a meeting is to create a record that can be used later to verify what took place. Minutes need to be accurate, but they don’t need to be lengthy.

My suggestions are based on the idea that the notes are going to be handwritten.

1. Keep your notes together.
Use a bound notebook like a school composition book. Loose sheets of paper are easy to lose and it’s easy to tear out the wrong page in a spiral notebook.

2. Have more than one pen or pencil with you.

3. Sit close to the podium or wherever most of the speaking will take place.

4. Have a clear idea of what you plan to do with the notes you’re taking.
The purpose of a conference-goer is not the same as that of a club secretary.

5. Take advantage of the kindness of others.
For example, if you’re taking notes for a club or a business meeting, pass around a sheet for attendance. Ask officers and members to give you copies of their reports and motions.

6. Follow the agenda.
Begin by noting the place of the meeting and the time at which it begins. Take things down as they happen. You can always rearrange things in a more logical order when you type up your notes.

7. Write down the exact words for motions.

8. Write legibly.
Write as fast as you can, but don’t scribble. If you don’t know shorthand, you’ll need to use your own symbols and abbreviations. Don’t be too creative. What you meant by AGMP may not be so obvious the day after the meeting.

9. Be accurate.
Spell everyone’s name correctly. If you’re taking notes in a chemistry course, you’d better get the names of the chemicals right. If necessary, buttonhole people after the meeting to double check on anything you’re not sure of.

10. Type up your notes as soon as possible after the meeting.
Cold notes are hard to decipher. Type them up the same day if possible.

Bonus tip from Sharon in a previous DWT post.

Here are some web sources that go into the subject in more detail:

Taking notes at a business meeting

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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1 Response to “10 Tips for Taking Notes”

  • Brad K.

    In addition to getting the wording correct on motions – get the names of who proposed and who seconded if appropriate. And do get the results of any votes or other ruling.

    In discussions, try to capture the major concerns and arguments for and against. Here the item mentioned is important, the wording not quite as much. If you can get the name of each person to attach to the point being made, that can be a help.

    Get the name of anyone bringing new or old business to the meeting.

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