Business Writing

Idioms 1: Idioms for Meetings

In English we use many idioms. But what is an idiom? According to my Concise Oxford English Dictionary an idiom is ‘a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words’.

In most cases, particularly with some of the more informal idioms, I recommend that you avoid them when you are writing for business. Often when we write something for business we are writing for someone whose native tongue is not English, and idioms can be a barrier to them understanding what we mean.

That said, there are some idioms which are used so often in business that they have become quite acceptable. In this tip we will look at some of the idioms and expressions that are in common use when we talk about meetings.


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To adjourn a meeting To end a meeting
To call a meeting to order To start a meeting
To call on someone to speak To invite someone to speak, to give a meeting participant permission to speak
To carry a motion To win acceptance for a proposal or idea in a meeting, usually through voting
To circulate the agenda To distribute the programme of the meeting to participants before the meeting so they know what will be discussed
To defeat a motion This happens when a proposal or idea does not get enough votes to pass. When a motion is defeated the proposed action will not take place
Follow-up meeting A meeting where participants discuss business that wasn’t completed at a previous meeting, or discuss new business related to an agenda item
To have the floor To have permission to speak, without interruption, during a meeting
To hold a meeting To conduct a meeting
To put (or lay) something on the table To present a matter for discussion at the meeting
To make (or table) a motion To make a suggestion at a meeting that will be voted on by the participants
To move to do something Another way of saying to table a motion
To open a meeting To begin the meeting proceedings
To be out of order Used when someone does not obey the speaking rules of the meeting. For example, someone may speak when someone else has the floor
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