[NFBWATLK] Tips for writing resolutions.

Mike Mello mike at mello.com
Wed Sep 20 23:48:15 UTC 2017

As state Convention draws near, I thought it would be helpful to share the
following document for how to write NFB resolutions.

-Mike Mello


Guidelines for Resolution Writing


          Writing resolutions is a specialized skill. The resolution is one
very long sentence directing the organization to take a stand or engage in
some action. It can also commend or take exception to actions of other
entities. It must not provide direct instructions to any group other than
the NFB or its president and board of directors. The actions or other
recommendations are contained in the resolves at the close of the
resolution. The argument for taking the action is laid out in a series of
whereases. Ideally each argument and only one argument should be placed in a
single whereas. These should be arranged in the most logical order possible.


          The most efficient way to write a resolution is to make a simple
outline or list of premises which you will turn into the WHEREAS clauses and
a similar simple list of phrases for the RESOLVED clauses. In fact, you
should begin by determining what your RESOLVED clauses are; that is, how
many there should be and what their basic thrust is. You will know how many
by the number of entities we need to address or the number of problems we
need to fix. After you decide specifically how you want the problem fixed,
determine the smallest number of concepts you need to explain to a person
unfamiliar with the problem that there is a problem. The best resolutions
can be picked up by a person unfamiliar with the issue and hold that
person's attention (in other words, are as short as possible) while still
actually explaining the problem and the solution or solutions. This method,
deciding the ending first and then crafting the arguments to reach it, will
result in the simplest and clearest resolution. Then, when you actually
write the formal resolution, you can focus on the writing and the style,
having already done the thinking part.

          Here are the punctuation and layout rules for writing resolutions:

1. Each argument begins with the word WHEREAS, indented and all caps. BE IT
RESOLVED and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, which introduce the resolve sections,
are also indented and written in caps. Note that WHEREAS is followed by a
comma, but the two versions of be it RESOLVED are not.

          2. Each WHEREAS before the final one ends with a semicolon and the
word "and." This is true of the RESOLVES as well.

          3. The final WHEREAS ends with a colon, the words "Now,
therefore," and a hard return. Please note that Now is capitalized.

          4. The final RESOLVE ends with a period. This reflects the fact
that the entire resolution is a single sentence. Sometimes one is taxed to
refrain from writing sentences within WHEREASes, but inserting a complete
sentence is not playing the game fairly.

          5. A blank line separates the elements of the resolution.

          6. In the beginning of the first RESOLVE surround the year and the
state with commas. The formula looks like this: 

          BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind in
convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta,
Georgia, ... Note also that the C in City is capitalized.


          The rather strained form of the resolution makes it sound
unnatural and formal. Do not attempt to add to this effect by indulging in
jargon and verbosity. Even though resolutions are frequently long, brevity
is a virtue. Each argument should be made concisely but clearly. Jargon
never helps this process. Substituting "utilize"for the short, vigorous word
"use" and always referring to people as persons or individuals are good
examples of counterproductive inflation of the pomposity quotient. On the
other hand, because resolutions are formal statements of a policy position,
you should avoid slang or informal words like "exams" instead of
"examinations" or "quotes" for "quotations." Verb forms like "hunker down"
or "get going" are also a bit too casual for use in resolutions.


          You will remember that the NFB is on record as opposing
people-first language, except as it happens for some reason to sound
euphonious. Despite this fact, we are increasingly saddled with awkward
people-first language in our resolutions that serves no function but to
lengthen the argument, sound pompous, and contradict our own policy.
Remember that there is nothing wrong with the terms "blind people" or
"blindness field." Yet increasingly our resolutions are cluttered with
"persons who are blind" or "persons with blindness or visual impairment."


          Capitalization should be consistent. Do not capitalize words for
emphasis. Quotation marks should not be used for this purpose either.
"Federal" is not capitalized unless it is part of an actual title or is the
first word of a sentence. Since WHEREASes do not begin with capital letters,
federal is almost never capitalized in resolutions. "Congress," on the other
hand, is, as are "House of Representatives" and "Senate." Names of
departments and organizations are capitalized, but terms like "departments
of education" or "vocational rehabilitation agencies" should not be.


          Resolutions often pile up nouns as adjectives. When this happens,
the terms should be hyphenated: Web-site creators, access-program producers.


          Bill numbers are written H.R. 0000 or S. 0000.


More information about the NFBWATLK mailing list