Simple Word Amendments

By Diana Bacon, MBA

Sometimes a main motion (proposed action) under discussion needs to be changed either by striking out a word, inserting a word, or striking out and inserting. These are the three types of simple word amendments. If adopted, an amendment modifies the wording of the main motion, which may make the wording for the proposed action more succinct, better defined, or expressed as intended.

There are often opportunities to improve the wording of a main motion, but few understand how to obtain the support of others to make recommended changes before a vote. These changes can be made by proposing an amendment.

Amendments provide directions on how to change the wording of a main motion. For clarity, the member needs to state exactly what the change should be and where the change should be made. The amendment must also be germane which means that the amendment is required to be applicable to the main motion.

Let’s look at an example:

Main motion: That the club purchase a coffee machine. After some discussion…
Member X, after obtaining recognition to speak: “I move to amend by inserting ‘not to exceed $80’ after ‘machine’.”

Discussion/debate is only permitted on the immediately pending amendment, not on the main motion. The voting process starts with the immediately pending amendment. An affirmative vote for an amendment means the wording in the main motion is changed. Voting on an amendment does NOT adopt the main motion. The main motion with the adopted amendments requires an affirmative vote before the proposed action may take place.

Voting on Amendments

To ensure members know exactly what they are being asked to vote on, the chair needs to take the following three steps to properly state the immediately pending question:

  • State the amendment;
  • State the motion as it would read if the amendment was adopted; and
  • Restate the amendment that is to be voted upon.

Let’s look at an example:

Chair: “The question is on inserting ‘not to exceed $80’. If the amendment is adopted, the main motion will read ‘That the club purchase a coffee machine not to exceed $80.’ Those in favour of inserting the words ‘not to exceed $80.’, say aye. (pause) Those opposed, say nay.”

The chair announces the result of the vote on the amendment as well as restates the main motion using the wording that was adopted. After the amendment is adopted, the main motion as amended may be further discussed and amended. The vote is then taken on the main motion as amended.

Let’s look at an example:

Chair: “The ayes have it, and the amendment is adopted. The question is now on the main motion as amended, ‘That the club purchase a coffee machine not to exceed $80.’ Are you ready for the question?” [Further discussion, if any, and vote.]

There can also be an amendment to an amendment, which is called a secondary amendment. But that is as far as it goes – a third degree amendment is NOT permitted and that is a good thing! Even secondary amendments can be complicated. Amending whole paragraphs has a similar process to simple word amendments but the term substitute is used instead of ‘strike out and insert’ which is used solely for simple word changes. For brevity, this article discusses only primary amendments. For information on secondary amendments and paragraph amendments, please refer to RONR (11th ed.), pages 130-62.

Next time you are in a meeting and do not like the motion as it is worded, change it! Now you know how.

About the Author

Diana Bacon, MBA provides parliamentary services to organizations, such as parliamentary procedure training, bylaws revisions, and serves as parliamentarian at conventions and AGMs.