Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order? Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff. She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense. She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

If motion not to allow lemonade stand fails, is lemonade stand allowed?

Dear Dinosaur: A motion is made and seconded to not to allow Sally Sue to operate a lemonade stand at 123 Main St. Upon vote majority vote Nay… is the lemonade stand now allowed?

Answer: No, no action has been taken with regard to the lemonade stand. The fact that this motion was defeated says only that the motion “not to allow” was defeated. It doesn’t say anything about “to allow.”

It is a bad idea to make a motion “not to do something.” When a motion has the word “not” in it, substantial confusion can result, as seen in your question.

Robert’s Rules of Order strongly recommends that motions should be phrased in the positive, just to avoid issues of this type. The proper course would have been to make a motion to allow Sally Sue to operate the lemonade stand. If it passes, she has permission. If it fails, she does not have permission.

Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. For specific questions, seek a qualified authority.

Never miss an article!
Sign up today and get our blog articles right in your inbox.

Posted in

Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.