What is a Point of Order?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A point of order is an interjection made during a meeting to question whether an action is allowable under the rules of order being followed. Numerous legislatures and organizations around the world follow parliamentary procedure and in these bodies, if there is a question about an activity taking place, anyone may raise a point of order. The meeting cannot continue until the chair has ruled, either sustaining the order and indicating that the activity was indeed invalid, or overruling it and allowing the activity to continue.

U.S. Senators may raise points of order during senatorial proceedings.
U.S. Senators may raise points of order during senatorial proceedings.

The point of order is a tool that can be used to enforce the rules of order in a gathering. It is the responsibility of the chair to uphold the rules, but chairs may not always act or may not always be aware of a breach. If someone notices something that may be a breach of the rules and the chair does not respond, that person has the right to interrupt proceedings immediately to raise a point of order.

It is not necessary to have the floor in order to question an activity occurring in the meeting and anyone may choose to interrupt to raise a point of order. If someone wants to dispute an activity, it must be done so as soon as it is noticed. People cannot challenge things after the fact. The topic is not subject for debate but if the chair feels that it cannot quickly be resolved, a brief recess may be called to review the matter in order to issue a fair ruling.

Once the ruling is issued, people can choose to abide by it, or appeal. Appeals are used if people feel that the chair is in error or that there are multiple ways to interpret the rules of order and thus that an activity might have been reasonable. People may also argue that individuals in the group are using this allowable interjection as a tool to delay or hinder discussion and other activities, rather than allowing a meeting to proceed smoothly. These tactics may be used by people who are stalling for time or who wish to fight using every possible method.

People often raise a point of order simply by raising their voices and shouting “point of order,” because it can be difficult to get the chair to recognize them if they do not make a commotion. Under normal circumstances, people are not permitted to interject, and thus the chair may not be scanning the chamber to see whether someone is waiting to be recognized.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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