The Professional Conduct Blog: Use of appropriate language in all professional communications

Author: Rui Carvalho Pais, Professional Conduct Manager

Date published

13 July 2022

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The Professional Conduct Blog

Date published
The Professional Conduct Blog

Rui Carvalho Pais, Professional Conduct Manager

Date published

13 July 2022


Rui Carvalho Pais, Professional Conduct Manager

One complaint received serves as an important reminder for members to use appropriate language in all professional communications at all times.

This case originated after a member of the public appointed a member to provide a structural report on a property.

The member undertook a survey of the property following which a report was issued.

The member’s report included, in the introduction, a sentence which referred to the property owner's race, physical stature and emotional state.  

You may not be surprised to know that it resulted in a complaint to the Institution against the Member by the subject of those comments. Those comments, in an engineering report, were irrelevant, unwarranted and a wholly inappropriate description of any client and/or third person, whereby reference to a person’s nationality, race, physical or emotional demeanour has no justifiable place in a professional report.

The member claimed that his remarks were not intended to be offensive, derogatory or racist and that if he had caused offense he would wish to apologise.

As experienced professional structural engineers, members are expected to understand and to demonstrate understanding of what constitutes inappropriate and/or inflammatory language and the impact of the use of such language on others. The member failed to demonstrate such understanding and failed to accept first and foremost that the remarks caused offence to that person.

In this case, the PCC upheld the complaint and found that the following Articles of the Code were breached by the member: 
  • Article 1: Act with integrity and fairness and in accordance with the principles of ethical behaviour
  • Article 2: Have regard to the public interest as well as the interests of all those affected by their professional activities
  • Article 3: Uphold the reputation of the profession
  • and Article 6: Exercise appropriate skill and judgement
The member accepted the outcome of the complaint, accepted the PCC’s Warning; issued an Apology to the person affected by those remarks, and; undertook a period of training in the area of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and the matter was closed soon after.

The biggest takeaway form this is that our perception of what's appropriate at any given time, may not be received in that way by others. We must always consider the appropriate use of language.

Rui Carvalho-Pais
Professional Conduct Manager

The Professional Conduct Blog was launched in July 2022 and aims to publish new blog entries on a monthly basis. See other Professional Conduct Blog posts

Related Resources & Events

<h4>Report of the Professional Conduct Committee 22 February 2023</h4>

Report of the Professional Conduct Committee 22 February 2023

In accordance with Procedural Rule 8.3 (01/19/V3REG4) the following decision of the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) is published with the Member's name.

Date – 17 March 2023
Author – IStructE