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.

No second – should motion be recorded in minutes?

Dear Dinosaur:  A councilmember made a motion and no one seconded it. Should it be included in the minutes?

Answer: This is a simple question with a slightly complex answer.

  • Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition says that all main motions which are moved in the course of a meeting, except normally any that were withdrawn, should be included in the minutes. See Section 48:4.
  • The Robert’s Rules Association, which publishes the book, has given an interpretation that “all main motions” includes motions that did not receive a second. You can read Interpretation 2006-7 here.
  • Jurassic Parliament believes that such motions should NOT be included in the minutes, for the sake of simplicity, and to reflect the fact that the body did not take them up. We have known an instance where one member of a local government body repeatedly made motions that no one seconded, which took up a great deal of time to no purpose. In the end, the council passed a Special Rule of Order that motions without seconds would not be included in the minutes. You can read about Special Rules of Order here.
  • Note that according to Robert’s Rules of Order, a second is not required on small boards (up to about 12 people). However, in local governments, a second is usually required. Jurassic Parliament recommends that a second be required. It seems worthwhile to take up discussion of a topic only if at least two people want to talk about it.

Read more about seconding a motion here.

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 issues, seek a qualified authority.

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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.


  1. Jason on October 4, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    I have seen it argued that motions proposed that fail for want of a seconder should still be recorded in the minutes to reflect that while at least one member was supportive, they failed to garner support from others – and to see the terms of their proposition. Whether such motions are recorded in the minutes should be a matter for the body, and written into standing orders.

    • Ann Macfarlane on October 4, 2022 at 5:07 pm

      Yes, we completely agree that this is a matter for the body, and that having the practice recorded in standing orders or rules is a good idea. Thanks for commenting.