Points of Order

Points of Order are one of the most obscure aspects of Parliamentary debate. This article serves as an introduction to and guide to the "Point of Order."

Given that Parliamentary debate is largely derived from government procedure, points of order are a significant aspect of the format. In the US Senate, a point of order is “a claim made by a senator from the floor that a rule of the senate is being violated.” In essence, a point of order serves governmentally to restore order to the committee session.

Unfortunately, points of order, or “POOs” as they are known in Parliamentary debate, are not used as honorably in the debate format. This article will analyze the most frequently asked questions about the point of order and why they are oftentimes used irresponsibly.

What exactly is a point of order in debate? A point of order recognizes an aspect of the opponent’s speech that violates Parliamentary code of conduct. Given that Parliamentary rules dictate that no new information is permitted in the third speeches, points of order typically note a new argument or refutation in the third speech. However, they can also be used to identify the mischaracterization of an argument in a profusely absurd way. A point of order should not be used to refute ideas brought up in the third speech, nor should it be used to distract or upset the present speaker.

How are points of order given? Points of order are given in the third substantive speeches by a member of the opposing team. Because there is no protected time in the third speech, a point of order can be given at any point throughout the speech. If a debater raises a point of order, the current speaker must accept the comment and pause time. The debater giving the point of order has under fifteen seconds to make their case for a rules violation, and the current speaker typically has the same amount of time to explain how they upheld the rules. Ultimately, though, the determination is left to the judge’s discretion.

What is the purpose of points of order? Ideally, points of order serve as a final defense mechanism for the opposing team to ensure the rules of debate are upheld. Do not be afraid to give a point of order if the other team is building an entirely new case in their final speech. However, this construct is often abused by debaters looking to confuse the current speaker - make sure your use of a point of order is productive to the quality of the debate.

What should I do if the opposing team is aggressively giving points of order? The best advice for points of order is to stay calm. Most frequently, the claim being raised against the speaker is false, and one is not violating the rules at all. So, carefully defending yourself without appearing phased often convinces the judge of your case. Don’t let the other team get to you!

Ultimately, points of order are useful mechanisms in upholding the rules of debate insofar as they are not used excessively. For more questions about points of order, visit the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s Rulebook.

For more information on the content discussed in this article, please visit our Parliamentary Resource page.