Robert's Rules of Order

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Robert's Rules of Order
RONR11 Cover.jpg
Cover of 2011 (11th) edition
  • Gen. Henry Martyn Robert
  • Sarah Corbin Robert
  • Henry M. Robert III
  • William J. Evans
  • Daniel H. Honemann
  • Thomas J. Balch
  • Daniel E. Seabold
  • Shmuel Gerber
Publisher Da Capo Press, A Member of the Perseus Books Group
Publication date
Pages 669 (text)
ISBN 978-0-306-82020-5
OCLC 860989594
060.42 ROB
LC Class JF515 .R692 2011

Robert's Rules of Order is the short title of a book, written by Brig. Gen. Henry Martyn Robert, containing rules of order intended to be adopted as a parliamentary authority for use by a deliberative assembly. As such, it is a guide for conducting meetings.

Originally published in 1876, it has been revised regularly through the years based on feedback from users.

Currently in its eleventh edition and published in 2011 under the name Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (and often referred to using the initialism RONR), it is a widely[1] used parliamentary authority in the English-speaking world.

History and origins[edit]

Henry M. Robert

The first edition of the book, whose full title was Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, was published in February 1876 by then U.S. Army Major Henry Martyn Robert (1837–1923) with the short title Robert's Rules of Order placed on its cover.

The procedures prescribed by the book were loosely modeled after those used in the United States House of Representatives, with such adaptations as Robert saw fit for use in ordinary societies. The author's interest in parliamentary procedure began in 1863 when he was chosen to preside over a church meeting and, although he accepted the task, felt that he did not have the necessary knowledge of proper procedure.

In his later work as an active member of several organizations, Robert discovered that members from different areas of the country had very different views regarding what the proper parliamentary rules were, and these conflicting views hampered the organizations in their work. He eventually became convinced of the need for a new manual on the subject, one which would enable many organizations to adopt the same set of rules.

Subsequent editions and versions[edit]

Original 1876 edition cover

As Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies (cover short title: Robert's Rules of Order)

  • First Edition – February 1876
    • Author: Major Henry M. Robert
    • Publisher: S. C. Griggs & Company
  • Second Edition – July 1876
    • Author: Major Henry M. Robert
    • Publisher: S. C. Griggs & Company
  • Third Edition – 1893
    • Author: Colonel Henry M. Robert
    • Publisher: S. C. Griggs & Company

As Robert's Rules of Order Revised

  • Fourth Edition – 1915
    • Author: General Henry M. Robert
    • Publisher: Scott, Foresman and Company
  • Fifth Edition – 1943
    • Author: General Henry M. Robert (Editors: Isabel H. Robert and Sarah Corbin Robert, Trustee)
    • Publisher: Scott, Foresman and Company
  • Sixth Edition ("Seventy-Fifth Anniversary") – 1951
    • Author: General Henry M. Robert (Editors: Isabel H. Robert and Sarah Corbin Robert, Trustee)
    • Publisher: Scott, Foresman and Company

As Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised

  • Seventh Edition – 1970 ("Enlarged more than twofold and totally recast to be made more explanatory")
    • Authors: General Henry M. Robert and Sarah Corbin Robert with the assistance of Henry M. Robert III, James W. Cleary, and William J. Evans
    • Publisher: Scott, Foresman and Company
  • Eighth Edition – 1981
    • Authors: General Henry M. Robert and Sarah Corbin Robert with the assistance of Henry M. Robert III, James W. Cleary, and William J. Evans
    • Publisher: Scott, Foresman and Company
  • Ninth Edition – 1990
    • Authors: General Henry M. Robert and Sarah Corbin Robert with the assistance of Henry M. Robert III and William J. Evans
    • Publisher: Scott, Foresman and Company
  • Tenth Edition – 2000 ("'Millennium,' thoroughly re-edited to refine conceptual clarity and consistency of statement")
    • Authors: General Henry M. Robert, Sarah Corbin Robert, Henry M. Robert III, William J. Evans, Daniel H. Honemann, and Thomas J. Balch
    • Publisher: Perseus Books
  • Eleventh Edition – 2011 ("Significantly re-edited with expanded and updated treatment of many topics")
    • Authors: General Henry M. Robert, Sarah Corbin Robert, Henry M. Robert III, William J. Evans, Daniel H. Honemann, and Thomas J. Balch with the assistance of Daniel E. Seabold and Shmuel Gerber
    • Publisher: Da Capo Press, A Member of the Perseus Books Group

Robert himself published the first four editions before his death in 1923, the last being the thoroughly revised and expanded Fourth Edition published as Robert's Rules of Order Revised in May 1915. By this time Robert had long been retired from the Army with the rank of brigadier general. The revisions were based on the feedback from hundreds of letters that Robert had received through the years.

Through a family trust, and later through the Robert's Rules Association (which is made up of descendants of General Henry M. Robert), several subsequent editions of Robert's work have been published, including another major revision of the work. The Seventh Edition, published in February 1970 on the 94th anniversary of the publication of the First Edition, was the first under the title Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. The subsequent editions were based on additional feedback from users, including feedback received by electronic means in recent years.

The current edition of the series became effective on September 23, 2011,[2] and entitled Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, Eleventh Edition (2011) (hardback ISBN 978-0-306-82021-2; paperback ISBN 978-0-306-82020-5; leatherbound ISBN 978-0-306-82022-9).[3][4] This edition states that it:

supersedes all previous editions and is intended automatically to become the parliamentary authority in organizations whose bylaws prescribe "Robert's Rules of Order," "Robert's Rules of Order Revised," "Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised," or "the current edition of" any of these titles, or the like, without specifying a particular edition.

— [5]

The authorship team of the current Eleventh Edition consists of a grandson of General Robert, an attorney, a lobbyist and legislative analyst, a mathematics professor, and a copy editor, all of them being experienced parliamentarians.

"In Brief" version[edit]

In 2005, a shorter reference guide, Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, was published by the same authorship team and publisher and was made to be in accord with the Tenth Edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. A second edition of this shorter guide was published in 2011 to conform with the current Eleventh Edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised.[6]

The In Brief book is the only authorized concise guide for Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised and is intended as an introductory book for those unfamiliar with parliamentary procedure. The authors claim, "In only twenty minutes, the average reader can learn the bare essentials, and with about an hour's reading can cover all the basics."[7] It is meant to be an introductory supplement to the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised and is not suitable for adoption as a parliamentary authority in itself.

Other editions and variations[edit]

Since the copyrights for several of the original editions (1915 or earlier) have expired, numerous other books and manuals have been published incorporating "Robert's Rules of Order" as part of their titles, some of them based on those earlier editions.

The existence of multiple editions and other variations all published as "Robert's Rules of Order" can sometimes cause confusion, as the various publications may differ in some details. If an organization that has adopted "Robert's Rules of Order" does not wish the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised to be considered its reference authority, it should adopt another version explicitly, as the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised is generally considered by parliamentarians to be the definitive source on the subject.

Explanation of purpose of book[edit]

Generally, Robert's Rules of Order is a guide for conducting meetings. The book is designed for use in ordinary societies rather than legislative assemblies, and it is the most commonly adopted parliamentary authority among societies in the United States.[8] The book claims to be a "codification of the present-day general parliamentary law (omitting provisions having no application outside legislative bodies)".[9] This statement does not imply any approbation on the part of the courts, and the "general parliamentary law" is related neither to statutory legal requirements nor to common-law precedent derived from court judgments.

As a reference, it is designed to answer, as nearly as possible, any question of parliamentary procedure that may arise. The Eleventh Edition contains 669 pages of text and all of its content was included because it has at some time come up as a question of procedure somewhere.[10] Nevertheless, the provisions of any particular manual are not, as a general matter, legally binding upon an assembly that has not formally adopted it as its parliamentary authority; any such manual can at best be cited as "persuasive" in such a situation.[11] In addition, a number of changes have been made to recent editions, such as provisions dealing with videoconferences, teleconferences, and email, which now makes these editions more than merely codifications of the "present-day general parliamentary law" as existed at the time Robert was originally writing.

If an assembly or society has adopted a book of rules for conducting its meetings, it is still free to adopt its own rules which supersede any rules in the adopted book with which they conflict. The only limitations might come from the rules in a parent organization or from national, state, or local law. Otherwise, the rules in the book are binding on the society.

General summary of current edition[edit]

The following is a general summary of the contents of the current Eleventh Edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised that was published in 2011:

Principles underlying parliamentary law[edit]

The rules in the book are based on the rights:

  • of the majority,
  • of the minority, especially a strong minority - greater than one third,
  • of individual members,
  • of absentees, and
  • of all these together.[12]

Fundamental concepts[edit]

  • Deliberative assembly
    • Member rights - attend meetings, make motions, speak in debate, and vote
    • Basic principle of decision - majority vote
    • Cases where more than majority vote is required - two-thirds vote, previous notice, majority of the entire membership
    • Types of deliberative assemblies - mass meeting, local assembly of an organized society (local club or local branch), convention, legislative body, board
  • Rules of an organization - corporate charter, constitution, bylaws, rules of order (special rules of order and parliamentary authority), standing rules, custom
  • The handling of a motion (motion, second, state, debate, put to vote, and results of vote) and unanimous consent
  • Types of meetings - regular meeting, special meeting, adjourned meeting, annual meeting, executive session, public session, electronic meetings
  • The main motion


Subsidiary Motions Privileged Motions Incidental Motions Motions That Bring A Question Again Before An Assembly
Postpone Indefinitely Call for the Orders of the Day Point of Order Take from the Table
Amend Raise a Question of Privilege Appeal Rescind/Amend Something Previously Adopted
Commit or Refer Recess Suspend the Rules Discharge a Committee
Postpone to a Certain Time Adjourn Objection to the Consideration of a Question Reconsider
Limit or Extend Limits of Debate Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn Division of a Question
Previous Question Consideration by Paragraph or Seriatim
Lay on the Table Motions Relating to Methods of Voting and the Polls
Motions Relating to Nominations
Request to Be Excused from a Duty
Requests and Inquiries
  • Parliamentary Inquiry
  • Request for Information
  • Request for Permission (or Leave) to Withdraw or Modify a Motion
  • Request to Read Papers
  • Request for Any Other Privilege

Body of Rules[edit]

  • Renewal of motions
  • Dilatory and improper motions
  • Quorum
  • Order of Business
  • Assignment of the floor and debate
  • Voting
  • Nominations and elections
  • Officers, minutes and officers' reports
  • Boards and Committees
  • Mass meetings and organization of a permanent society
  • Bylaws
  • Conventions
  • Disciplinary procedures

Charts, Tables, and Lists[edit]

  • Chart for Determining When Each Subsidiary or Privileged Motion Is In Order
  • Table of Rules Relating to Motions
  • Sample Forms Used in Making Motions
  • Motions and Parliamentary Steps
  • Motions Which Require a Two-Thirds Vote
  • Motions Whose Reconsideration Is Prohibited Or Limited
  • Table of Rules for Counting Election Ballots

Contents in CD-ROM format[edit]

The Robert's Rules Association has also made the Eleventh Edition available in CD-ROM format through American Legal Publishing. The CD contains the current editions of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised and Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief as well as a Timekeeper’s Guide, Teller’s Report, Sample Rules for Electronic Meetings, various Forms, and resources for Ballot Voting and Understanding Secondary Amendments.[13] It should be noted that the CD is designed for installation on Windows PCs.

Other formats[edit]

As of October 2015, the Robert's Rules Association has not released an e-book version of the current Eleventh Edition. Thus, any copy of Robert's Rules of Order that is downloaded online is likely an older edition (1915 or earlier) that is available in the public domain.

Partial lists of changes between editions[edit]

From the First Edition to the Second Edition

  • Added Part III: Miscellaneous (the First Edition only had Parts I and II)
  • Revised Table of Rules and moved it from back of book to front of book

From the Second Edition to the Third Edition

  • Motion to Lie on the Table was changed to Lay on the Table
  • Filling Blanks was moved from "Miscellaneous motions" to under Motion to Amend
  • Added motion to Rescind

From the Third Edition to the Fourth Edition

  • Significant reorganization of the book (Part III combined into Part II and portions of Part II combined into Part I)
  • Added motion to Recess
  • Added many of the incidental motions

From the Fourth Edition to the Fifth Edition

  • Incorporated only in-page changes planned by General Robert before his death

From the Fifth Edition to the Sixth Edition

  • Added Principles Underlying Parliamentary Law
  • Added The Parliamentarian
  • Added that notice for a special meeting should state its purpose
  • Added suggested wording for bylaws with regard to the annual meeting, officer terms, and nominating committee

From the Sixth Edition to the Seventh Edition

  • Complete reworking of the book
  • Main divisions changed from "Articles" to "Chapters"
  • Presented natural order of motions (from lowest to highest)
  • Significant expansion of explanation of motions with examples
  • Added tinted pages of charts and tables
  • Omitted most of references to Congress

From the Seventh Edition to the Eighth Edition

  • Recognized that a board is a form of deliberative assembly (unlike a committee)
  • Clarified rule prohibiting interruption of voting
  • Clarified motions of Previous Question and Lay on the Table

From the Eighth Edition to the Ninth Edition

  • Reinserted hints to inexperienced presiding officers (this section was removed from the Seventh Edition)
  • Added some principles of interpretation of bylaws and other documents
  • Recognized that copies of minutes and agenda may be submitted in advance

From the Ninth Edition to the Tenth Edition

  • Removed some references to being "legal" (parliamentary law is not a court of law)
  • Recognized alternate forms of "chairman" ("chair" or "chairperson")
  • Recognized customs
  • Expanded explanation of Point of Order and its timeliness including when there is a breach of a continuing nature
  • Recognized existence of the internet and possible electronic meetings

From the Tenth Edition to the current Eleventh Edition

  • A new subsection on electronic meetings
  • Recognized that notice may be sent by electronic communication such as e-mail
  • More fully explained rules for counting ballots and resolving election disputes
  • Added definition for a member "in good standing"
  • A thorough revision of the chapter on disciplinary procedures
  • Removed more references to being "legal" (parliamentary law is not a court of law)

Generally, a fuller list and more details of the changes are found in the preface of each edition. All the changes were a result of questions and comments received from users.

Explanations of rules in book[edit]

Official interpretations[edit]

Starting in the period between the Tenth Edition and the Eleventh Edition, the authors released official interpretations of rules in the book on the website maintained by the Robert's Rules Association.[14] The interpretations from that period were later incorporated into the Eleventh Edition.

Common misunderstandings[edit]

In addition, the authors addressed common misunderstandings of the rules coming from frequently asked questions.[15] Some of the misunderstandings involve:

  • when the president can vote
  • if ex-officio members can vote
  • the definition of majority
  • how abstentions affect the vote
  • a "friendly amendment"
  • "calling the question"
  • "tabling" a motion
  • getting items on the agenda
  • the contents of minutes

It should be noted that these misunderstandings are of the rules in the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. The organization may be governed by other rules which supersede these "default" rules.

Question & Answer Forum[edit]

The official interpretations and addressed common misunderstandings were a result of questions posted in the Question & Answer Forum.[16] This forum is actively moderated by members of the authorship team.

Application to specific organizations[edit]

In those cases in which the bylaws or other governing documents of an organization refer to "Robert's Rules of Order," certain rules in the book may be subordinate to other specified rules, including any conflicting provisions in applicable law, the corporate charter, the constitution and/or bylaws, and special rules of order.

Types of organizations[edit]

In the Question & Answer Forum on the website maintained by the Robert's Rules Association, members of the following types of organizations have posted questions regarding how the rules in the book apply to their specific organization:

  • Alumni associations
  • Charitable organizations
  • Church groups
  • City councils
  • Community organizations
  • Condominium associations
  • Cooperatives
  • County commissions
  • Cultural groups
  • Dog clubs
  • Educational groups
  • Family reunions
  • Fraternal organizations
  • Gaming clubs
  • Golf & country clubs
  • Hobby groups
  • Homeowner associations
  • Horse clubs
  • Nonprofit associations
  • Political organizations
  • Professional societies
  • Quilt clubs
  • School boards
  • School groups
  • Scientific organizations
  • Service organizations
  • Sports leagues
  • Student governments
  • Teacher associations
  • Unions
  • Village boards
  • Volunteer fire departments
  • Yacht clubs

Law-making bodies[edit]

Generally, Robert's Rules of Order is designed for "ordinary societies". However, law-making bodies at the local level (such as a city council or a county commission) function similar to boards of societies. Thus, the book has found application to such bodies. It should be noted that such bodies are also subject to open meeting laws (Sunshine laws) which supersede any conflicting provisions in the book.

On the other hand, legislative bodies at the state or national level have their own well-defined set of rules (such as Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure). However, a survey found that four state legislative chambers in the United States still use Robert's Rules of Order.[17]

Model United Nations[edit]

Robert's Rules of Order are used in Model United Nations conferences. While the chair of each committee in an MUN conference may sometimes deviate from the written rules for educational purposes, the format of the specific committees is mostly based on "Robert's Rules of Order". Special committees, like the Security Council, for example, have specific guidelines on procedure. There are many MUN conferences across the world, mainly run by independent college students like the National Model United Nations. The procedures in each conference vary.

Corporate world[edit]

Robert's Rules of Order is based on each member of a group having equal weight as expressed by vote. With that in mind, it may find application in the corporate world. It becomes less useful when individuals within the group have more power than others (see Parliamentary procedure in the corporate world).

Use by parliamentarian societies[edit]

A parliamentarian is an expert on parliamentary procedure. The National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) is the largest non-profit association of parliamentarians in the world. This organization bases its opinions and instruction upon Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.[18] Membership in this organization requires passing an exam which is based on chapters 1-11 of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief (2nd edition).[19]

The American Institute of Parliamentarians is another non-profit association of parliamentarians. This organization stresses proficiency and familiarity with a variety of parliamentary authorities, although it recognizes that Robert's Rules of Order is the most frequently used parliamentary authority.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FAQ on parliamentary procedure". National Association of Parliamentarians. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  2. ^ Announcement by Henry M. Robert, III, at the 2011 convention of the National Association of Parliamentarians®.
  3. ^ Robert, Henry M. III; Honemann, Daniel H.; Balch, Thomas J.; Seabold, Daniel E.; Gerber, Shmuel (September 27, 2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.). Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780306820205. 
  4. ^ Donadio, Rachel (May 20, 2007). "Point of Order". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Robert 2011, p. vii
  6. ^ "Robert's Rules In Brief". Retrieved 2012-06-15. 
  7. ^ Robert 2011, p. xxiv
  8. ^ Slaughter, Jim. "Parliamentary Procedure in the 21st Century". RONR is used by approximately 85% of all organizations in the United States. 
  9. ^ Robert 2011, p. xxix
  10. ^ Robert 2011, p. xxiv
  11. ^ Robert 2011, pp. 17, lines 4–7: "Although it is unwise for an assembly or a society to attempt to function without formally adopted rules of order, a recognized parliamentary manual may be cited under such conditions as persuasive."
  12. ^ Robert 2011, p. li
  13. ^ "The Official Robert's Rules of Order Web Site". 
  14. ^ "Official Interpretations by the Authors of RONR". 
  15. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about RONR". 
  16. ^ "RONR Question & Answer Forum: Introduction". 
  17. ^ "Masons Manual for Legislative Bodies". Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  18. ^ "National Association of Parliamentarians >> Parliamentary Basics". 
  19. ^ "National Association of Parliamentarians >> How to Apply". Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  20. ^ "Become a Parliamentarian - American Institute of Parliamentarians". Retrieved 2015-09-18. 


  • Robert, Henry Martyn (2011). Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.). Cambridge MA: Da Capo Press. 

External links[edit]

Preview books (limited pages)[edit]

  • Preview Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th ed.) (2011) through Google Books
  • Preview Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief (2nd ed.) (2011) through Google Books

Sites providing full text of older editions (from public domain)[edit]

Note that the following sites are not maintained by the Robert's Rules Association and have no relation to the Official Robert's Rules of Order Web Site: