Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition


By Henry M. Robert

By Daniel H. Honemann

By Thomas J. Balch

By Daniel E. Seabold

By Shmuel Gerber

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The only current authorized edition of the classic work on parliamentary procedure–now in a new updated edition

Robert’s Rules of Order is the recognized guide to smooth, orderly, and fairly conducted meetings. This 12th edition is the only current manual to have been maintained and updated since 1876 under the continuing program established by General Henry M. Robert himself. As indispensable now as the original edition was more than a century ago, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised is the acknowledged “gold standard” for meeting rules.

New and enhanced features of this edition include:
  • Section-based paragraph numbering to facilitate cross-references and e-book compatibility
  • Expanded appendix of charts, tables, and lists
  • Sample rules for electronic meetings
  • Helpful summary explanations about postponing a motion, reconsidering a vote, making and enforcing points of order and appeals, and newly expanded procedures for filling blanks
  • New provisions regarding debate on nominations, reopening nominations, and completing an election after its scheduled time
  • Dozens more clarifications, additions, and refinements to improve the presentation of existing rules, incorporate new interpretations, and address common inquiries

Coinciding with publication of the 12th edition, the authors of this manual have once again published an updated (3rd) edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, a simple and concise introductory guide cross-referenced to it.


See text version of this list

This Twelfth Edition 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. If the bylaws specifically identify one of the eleven previous editions of the work as parliamentary authority, the bylaws should be amended to prescribe “the current edition of ‘Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised’” (see 56:66).


(13) A boldface number, usually enclosed in parentheses, refers to an entire section (here section 13).
13:1 Two numbers, separated by a colon, refer to a paragraph. The first number indicates the section in which the paragraph is located and the second number indicates which paragraph within that section is referenced (here the first paragraph in section 13).


cf. compare to (“confer”)
e.g. for example (“exempli gratia”)
ff. and the paragraphs following the given paragraph
n The letter n following a paragraph number indicates a footnote. Notes are numbered consecutively within each chapter.
p., pp. page, pages
t48 A number preceded by the letter t indicates a page within the “Charts, Tables, and Lists,” whose pages are tinted gray on the outer edges.

Also see 10:37, “Notes on Example Format Throughout the Book.”


to the Twelfth Edition

This Twelfth Edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) is issued one hundred forty-four years after the 1876 publication, by then-Major (later Brigadier General) Henry M. Robert, of the first in the series of books familiarly known as “Robert’s Rules of Order.” A complete list of the editions is shown on page vi, and their history is told in the Introduction.

This Twelfth Edition in the entire series is the sixth edition of the second complete reworking of the subject matter first published in 1970. It is the only book in print containing the completely developed body of rules understood as “Robert’s Rules of Order.”

Users of this work should be aware of three important resources that supplement RONR.

First, for some time there had been a felt tension between the need for a parliamentary manual lengthy enough to provide rules as comprehensive and unambiguous as possible so as to cover the great number and variety of parliamentary issues that may arise in a deliberative assembly, on the one hand, and the desirability of a book simple and straightforward enough to allow the ordinary meeting-goer easily to learn and use the basic rules that are sufficient for most meetings, on the other hand.

When this book last underwent complete revision in 1970, a concerted effort was made to enhance the value of the work for the study of parliamentary law—to the extent consistent with its primary purpose as a reference manual. For those who will brave it, it is written to serve as a self-explanatory text that can be read through, with topics presented in an order that will best convey an overall understanding of the subject matter. Nevertheless, it is recognized that this project may be a bigger challenge than many newcomers to parliamentary procedure will find themselves at first able or willing to take on.

In 2005, to meet the need for a simple and short book, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief was first published. A new edition of In Brief, updated and revised so as to mesh with this Twelfth Edition, has now been published. This Twelfth Edition of RONR, the complete rule book, now contains 633 pages of text, plus tables and charts. All of its content has to be included because it may be needed and has at some time come up as a question of procedure somewhere. This book is designed as a reference providing, as nearly as possible, an answer to any question of parliamentary procedure that may arise.

To gain an introductory familiarity with meeting rules, however, many people will find it useful to start with the In Brief book. In only thirty minutes, the average reader can learn the bare essentials, and with about ninety minutes’ reading can cover all the basics. Additional chapters give suggestions on how most efficiently to use this Twelfth Edition of RONR as a reference manual and guidance to those chosen as convention delegates or alternates, or as president, vice-president, secretary, or treasurer of an organization. Helpful tables at the end give both the chair and the ordinary member the proper wording to use in handling the most common motions and conducting a meeting.

It cannot be stressed too strongly, however, that In Brief is an introductory supplement to, not a replacement for, this book. Only this book is comprehensive enough to be suitable for adoption as the rule book governing an assembly, and it covers many essential matters—from the content of bylaws to disciplinary procedures—that are hardly touched on in the shorter work.

Second, the current edition is, for the first time, being published as an e-book as well as in the traditional print format. Rapid search ability and hyperlinked cross-references are particularly useful features of the e-book. Several previous editions had been formatted to facilitate citations to the rules in them by page and line number. Largely motivated by an attempt to maximize the utility of the e-book, this edition inaugurates a system of reference by paragraph number, with consecutive numbers within each section shown in the margins. Users are encouraged to cite rules in this edition by these numbers, as shown in the “Cite This Book” box on page vii.

In addition, the new editions of both RONR and In Brief are again being made available through American Legal Publishing as a PC-based software application with powerfully sophisticated search and browsing features as well as helpful bonus material, such as instructions for tellers and timekeepers, sample forms, and step-by-step explanations of secondary amendments.

Third, the Robert’s Rules Association—the organization of the original author’s descendants that oversees the management and regular updating of the work—sponsors a website at On its “Question and Answer Forum,” one may post queries and conduct discussion about any aspect of parliamentary procedure.

Since the publication of the first edition of Robert’s Rules in 1876, General Robert and, since his death, his successors have been receiving and replying to questions of parliamentary law. As the Introduction notes concerning the 1915 revision, “The reorganization, expansion, and clarification represented by Robert’s Rules of Order Revised was largely the outgrowth of hundreds of letters received by the author over the years, submitting questions of parliamentary law arising in organizations and not covered in the earlier editions.” Questions asked on the Question and Answer Forum have made an integral contribution to the authors’ continuing task of identifying matters in need of clarification while preparing this new edition.

The website also includes “RONR Official Interpretations” on issues of parliamentary law arising between editions that RONR’s authors deem useful to address. These interpretations are not technically binding on an organization that has adopted Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised as its parliamentary authority, but they are nonetheless definitive interpretations of the work by the current authors and should therefore be treated as highly persuasive. It is thus advisable for presiding officers, or the parliamentarians who advise them, to consult them for guidance on matters they address.

This Twelfth Edition of RONR clarifies, modifies, and expands upon the rules in previous editions, as situations occurring in assemblies point to a need for more fully developed rules to go by in particular cases.

In this edition, a number of sections or subsections have been substantially revised, most notably in the following respects:

1. Section 14 covering Postpone to a Certain Time, to have this motion’s Standard Descriptive Characteristics 1 and 2 more closely comport with the rules relating to Point of Order and Appeal; to avoid unnecessary repetition of the rules found in section 41 dealing with procedures to be followed when postponed items are taken up again; and to clarify the rules concerning the effect of postponement on motions adhering to the motion postponed and on subsequent debate and methods of voting.

2. Section 15 covering Limit or Extend Limits of Debate, to clarify the varying effects that adoption of the different forms of this motion will have on the making of subsidiary motions, and to eliminate the distinction between motions that provide only for closing debate and those that also specify when the vote shall be taken.

3. Section 17 covering Lay on the Table, to rearrange these rules into a more orderly and logical sequence.

4. Section 23 covering Point of Order, to clarify and expand upon the rules setting forth remedies for violations that have given rise to a continuing breach.

5. Section 34 covering Take from the Table, to clarify the rules that impose time limits on taking questions from the table and the rules setting forth the status of motions taken from the table.

6. Section 37 covering Reconsider, by the insertion at the beginning of the section of a summary of the rules relating to reconsideration of votes, followed by a substantial rearrangement of the order in which the rules in this section are discussed.

7. The rules relating to the device of filling blanks (12:92–113), to provide substantially greater guidance concerning the proper procedure to be followed in making, debating, and voting on suggestions.

8. The rules relating to the office of vice-president (47:23–31), for purposes of clarification and in order to incorporate relevant provisions previously found only scattered elsewhere throughout the book.

9. That portion of section 48 which deals with minutes (48:1–15), to more clearly present the various procedures for their approval; to state how an assembly may specify the inclusion of different information than that prescribed by this book, either for a particular meeting or on a regular basis; to more clearly identify those occasions when the number of votes on each side of a question is to be recorded; to provide that the secretary may include as an attachment committee reports that the assembly has ordered to be entered in; and to describe how corrections made to previously adopted minutes are recorded.

Some of the other more important points of revision include the following:

10. Refinement of the rules governing the sending of notice (the “call”) of regular meetings, including the conditions under which notice is required to be sent (9:2–4).

11. Clarification of what the obligation of secrecy of an executive session does and does not entail, and how the secrecy may be lifted (9:26–27).

12. Clarification of the circumstances in which the assembly may adopt an incidental main motion that conflicts with a provision of the bylaws in the nature of a rule of order (10:26(1)n1).

13. Clarification that the prohibition against making a motion to Amend that raises a question already decided applies only during the session at which the decision was made (12:13, 12:25, 12:28, 12:48, 12:63, 12:65, 12:74, 12:90).

14. Recognition of circumstances in which use of electronic devices such as voting keypads can fulfill a requirement that voting be by ballot (45:42).

15. New provisions regarding debate on nominations (46:27–29).

16. More detailed provisions governing the completion of an election and its relation to filling a vacancy in office (46:44–45).

17. Clarification of procedures for making minutes of a board available to others who are not board members (49:17–19).

18. Recognition that, when the bylaws specify the number of years in a term of office, the actual term of office may be more or less than a whole number of calendar years (56:27).

19. Requirement that a bylaws revision is in order only when prepared by a committee authorized to draft it (57:5).

20. Clarification of the procedure to be followed for presentation and adoption of convention standing rules (59:30–34).

21. Expanded explanation of the procedure for making and enforcing points of order and appeals in the subsection Remedies for Abuse of Authority by the Chair in a Meeting (62:2–7).

22. Inclusion of an appendix containing sample rules for electronic meetings.

For a more extensive list of changes in the Twelfth Edition, see

The authors wish to acknowledge their indebtedness to Mark Corsey of Eclipse Publishing Services, and for the editorial assistance of Robert Pigeon, editor; Melissa Raymond, managing editor; and Clive Priddle, publisher of PublicAffairs Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, a division of Hachette Book Group.

Henry M. Robert III

Daniel H. Honemann

Thomas J. Balch

Daniel E. Seabold

Shmuel Gerber


The rules of parliamentary law found in this book will, on analysis, be seen to be constructed upon a careful balance of the rights of persons or subgroups within an organization’s or an assembly’s total membership. That is, these rules are based on a regard for 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.

The means of protecting all of these rights in appropriate measure forms much of the substance of parliamentary law, and the need for this protection dictates the degree of development that the subject has undergone.

Parliamentary procedure enables the overall membership of an organization—expressing its general will through the assembly of its members—both to establish and empower an effective leadership as it wishes, and at the same time to retain exactly the degree of direct control over its affairs that it chooses to reserve to itself.

Ultimately, it is the majority taking part in the assembly who decide the general will, but only following upon the opportunity for a deliberative process of full and free discussion. Only two thirds or more of those present and voting may deny a minority or any member the right of such discussion.

In this connection, there is an underlying assumption of a right that exists even though it may not always be prudent or helpful for it to be exercised. Each individual or subgroup has the right to make the maximum effort to have his, her, or its position declared the will of the assembly to the extent that can be tolerated in the interests of the entire body.

Another important principle is that, as a protection against instability—arising, for example, from such factors as slight variations in attendance—the requirements for changing a previous action are greater than those for taking the action in the first place.

Fundamentally, under the rules of parliamentary law, a deliberative body is a free agent—free to do what it wants to do with the greatest measure of protection to itself and of consideration for the rights of its members.

The application of parliamentary law is the best method yet devised to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member’s opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion.




Nature of the Deliberative Assembly

1:1      A deliberative assembly—the kind of gathering to which parliamentary law is generally understood to apply—has the following distinguishing characteristics:

• It is a group of people, having or assuming freedom to act in concert, meeting to determine, in full and free discussion, courses of action to be taken in the name of the entire group.

• The group meets in a single room or area or under equivalent conditions of opportunity for simultaneous aural communication among all participants.1

• Persons having the right to participate—that is, the members—are ordinarily free to act within the assembly according to their own judgment.

• In any decision made, the opinion of each member present has equal weight as expressed by vote—through which the voting member joins in assuming direct personal responsibility for the decision, should his or her vote be on the prevailing side.

• Failure to concur in a decision of the body does not constitute withdrawal from the body.

• If any members are absent—as is usually the case in any formally organized assembly such as a legislative body or the assembly of an ordinary society—the members present at a regular or properly called meeting act for the entire membership, subject only to such limitations as may be established by the body’s governing rules (see Quorum of Members, however, 3:3–5; also 40).

1:2      The rules in this book are principally applicable to meeting bodies possessing all of the foregoing characteristics. Certain of these parliamentary rules or customs may sometimes also find application in other gatherings which, although resembling the deliberative assembly in varying degrees, do not have all of its attributes as listed above.

1:3      The distinction should be noted between the assembly (that is, the body of people who assemble) and the meeting (which is the event of their being assembled to transact business). The relation between these terms, however, is such that their application may coincide; a “mass meeting,” for example, is described below as one type of assembly. The term meeting is also distinguished from session, according to definitions stated in 8. A session may be loosely described as a single complete course of an assembly’s engagement in the conduct of business, and may consist of one or more meetings.

1:4      A member of an assembly, in the parliamentary sense, as mentioned above, is a person entitled to full participation in its proceedings, that is, as explained in 3 and 4, the right to attend meetings, to make motions, to speak in debate, and to vote. No member can be individually deprived of these basic rights of membership—or of any basic rights concomitant to them, such as the right to make nominations or to give previous notice of a motion—except through disciplinary proceedings. Some organized societies define additional classes of “membership” that do not entail all of these rights. Whenever the term member is used in this book, it refers to full participating membership in the assembly unless otherwise specified. Such members are also described as “voting members” when it is necessary to make a distinction.

1:5      A deliberative assembly that has not adopted any rules is commonly understood to hold itself bound by the rules and customs of the general parliamentary law—or common parliamentary law (as discussed in the Introduction)—to the extent that there is agreement in the meeting body as to what these rules and practices are. Most assemblies operate subject to one or more classes of written rules, however, that the particular body—or, sometimes, a higher authority under which it is constituted—has formally adopted. Taken as a whole, such rules may relate to the establishment of the organization or society of which the assembly is the meeting body, they may interpret or supplement the general parliamentary law, or they may involve provisions not directly related to the transaction of business. The classes of rules that an assembly or an organization may adopt and the position that the rules in this book assume within such a body’s overall system of rules are initially explained in 2. Aside from rules of parliamentary procedure and the particular rules of an assembly, the actions of any deliberative body are also subject to applicable procedural rules prescribed by local, state, or national law and would be null and void if in violation of such law.2

1:6      The basic principle of decision in a deliberative assembly is that, to become the act or choice of the body, a proposition must be adopted by a majority vote; that is, direct approval—implying assumption of responsibility for the act—must be registered by more than half of the members present and voting on the particular matter, in a regular or properly called meeting of the body (see also 44:1–2). Modifications of the foregoing principle that impose a requirement of more than a majority vote arise: (a) where required by law; (b) where provided by special rule of a particular organization or assembly as dictated by its own conditions; or (c) where required under the general parliamentary law in the case of certain steps or procedures that impinge on the normal rights of the minority, of absentees, or of some other group within the assembly’s membership.

1:7      When a decision is to be based on more than a majority, the requirement most commonly specified is a two-thirds vote—that is, the expressed approval of at least two thirds of those present and voting. Under certain circumstances, whatever the vote required, there may be an additional requirement of previous notice, which means that notice of the proposal to be brought up—at least briefly describing its substance—must be announced at the preceding meeting or must be included in the “call” of the meeting at which it is to be considered (see also 10:44–51). The call of a meeting is a written notice of its time and place that is sent to all members of the organization a reasonable time in advance. Other bases for decision which find use in certain cases are defined in 44, such as a majority of the entire membership—that is, more than half of all the members.

1:8      Whenever the rules of an assembly require a majority vote, a two-thirds vote, or any other basis for decision, it must be understood that, unless otherwise specified in the rules (as in the case of certain procedural actions), such a vote is effective only if taken when the necessary minimum number of members, known as a quorum, is present (see 3:3–5; also 40).

Types of Deliberative Assembly

1:9      The deliberative assembly may exist in many forms. Among the principal types that it is convenient to distinguish for the purposes of parliamentary law are: (1) the mass meeting; (2) the assembly of an organized society, particularly when meeting at the local or lowest subdivisional level; (3) the convention; (4) the legislative body; and (5) the board. A brief introductory explanation of the five principal types of deliberative assembly is given below.

1:10 The Mass Meeting. The mass meeting is the simplest form of assembly in principle, although not the one most frequently encountered. A mass meeting is a meeting of an unorganized group that is announced as open to everyone (or everyone within a specified sector of the population) interested in a particular problem or purpose defined by the meeting’s sponsors, and that is called with a view to appropriate action to be decided on and taken by the meeting body. A series of connected meetings making up a session may be held on such a basis. The class of persons invited might be, for example, supporters of a given political party, homeowners residing within a certain city, persons opposed to a tax increase, or any similar group. Admittance may be limited to the invited category if desired. Everyone who attends a mass meeting has the right to participate in the proceedings as a member of the assembly, upon the understanding that he is in general sympathy with the announced object of the meeting.



On Sale
Sep 1, 2020
Page Count
816 pages

Henry M. Robert

About the Author

Henry M. Robert III (1920-2019), grandson of General Robert, began his association with Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised in writing the 1970 edition and participated in writing six editions, culminating in this 12th edition. He served as parliamentarian of the National Association of Parliamentarians and multiple other national and international organizations.

Daniel H. Honneman, a Maryland attorney, now retired, is a past President of the Maryland Association of Parliamentarians.

Thomas J. Balch is a practicing parliamentarian who formerly acted as a Washington, DC-based lobbyist and legislative analyst. He has served as parliamentarian of the NAP.

Daniel E. Seabold is a mathematics professor at Hofstra University specializing in logic and set theory.

Shmuel Gerber, a professional parliamentarian and copyeditor, has served as the Assistant Editor of the National Parliamentarian.

Learn more about this author