Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Professional Code of Conduct

For all linguists

As the Royal Charter body for all linguists, CIOL represents language professionals and linguists in all fields and sectors.

Setting the standard

CIOL sets and maintains high standards of entry for membership and requires all members and honorary members (irrespective of grade), plus Chartered Linguists from CIOL and other qualifying organisations, to adhere to the general principles as set out in the code. These principles act as benchmarks for the conduct expected of a professional linguist who is a CIOL member and/or Chartered Linguist.

Protecting members and the public

The code is designed to afford protection to both members and the public and is approved by CIOL Council. The current version was approved by Council in September 2022

CIOL Code of Professional Conduct


The CIOL Code of Professional Conduct applies to, and is binding on, all members and honorary members of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) and Chartered Linguists, including those who are members of other qualifying organisations. The Code does not bind CIOL itself. Members and Chartered Linguists have a duty of integrity and professional responsibility to clients/employers, to colleagues, to their professional body and its staff/officers, and to society at large. The Code is based on a series of General Principles of Professional Conduct, which serve as benchmarks for the conduct that the above groups are entitled to expect.

It is not the role of CIOL to review, hear appeal or act in any appellate capacity over decisions made in any other related proceedings (legal or otherwise), and CIOL’s remit only relates to the professional conduct of the member. Likewise, if the services of a CIOL member were engaged via an agency or their employer, then redress must be sought through the complaints procedure of the agency or employer concerned.

Alleged contraventions of the Code will be addressed through CIOL's professional conduct procedures. The Code of Conduct is approved by Council, and this current version entered into force in September 2022. 

This Code of Conduct:

  • Defines standards for best practice by Members/Chartered Linguists;
  • Provides Members/Chartered Linguists with a framework for making decisions on ethical professional and business conduct;
  • Fosters good professional relationships between Members/Chartered Linguists, between Members/Chartered Linguists and those they work with or alongside.
  • Protects Members/Chartered Linguists against undue pressure from clients, employers or fellow professionals in relation to professional conduct; and
  • In conjunction with CIOL’s professional conduct procedures, upholds the integrity and reputation of the language professions.


The following definitions apply in this Code of Conduct:

Chartered Linguist: a person designated with this title and listed in the register of Chartered Linguists maintained by the Chartered Institute of Linguists and including Chartered Linguists of other qualifying organisations [i]

CIOL: the abbreviated form for the Chartered Institute of Linguists

Council: the governing body of the Chartered Institute of Linguists

Professional conduct procedures: the professional conduct procedures of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, applicable to Members of CIOL and to Chartered Linguists

Disciplinary Procedures: the disciplinary procedures of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, applicable to Members of CIOL and to Chartered Linguists

Member: a linguist in any class of membership

Qualifying organisation: a professional body or similar organisation whose members may be registered as Chartered Linguists under the rules for admission as Chartered Linguists

General Principles of Professional Conduct

The framework for ethical professional conduct by Members/Chartered Linguists is underpinned by the following seven General Principles of Professional Conduct:

  1. Professional judgement
  2. Linguistic competence
  3. Subject competence
  4. Professional competence
  5. Continuing Professional Development
  6. Responsibilities to those they work with or alongside
  7. Responsibilities to fellow linguists and to CIOL

1) Professional judgement

1.1) The Code of Conduct represents a framework for professional judgement by Members/Chartered Linguists. In particular, it offers Members/Chartered Linguists protection against requests by those they work with or alongside to carry out work that places them in breach of the Code. Members/Chartered Linguists will apply the provisions of the Code to the judgements they make concerning their competence to carry out work they are offered and the compatibility of that work with the General Principles of Professional Conduct.

2) Linguistic competence

2.1) Members/Chartered Linguists will normally offer professional services in the language or languages in which they are currently registered with CIOL or other recognised professional body.

2.2) Members/Chartered Linguists will work only within their linguistic competence. ‘Linguistic competence’ means their spoken and/or written command of the language(s) concerned, their awareness of dialects and other language variants, and their knowledge of the relevant cultural, social and political features of the country or countries concerned.

3) Subject competence

3.1) Members/Chartered Linguists will work only within their subject competence. ‘Subject competence’ means their familiarity with the specialist field(s) involved in the work, whether gained through formal qualifications, experience, research, self-guided learning or training (informal and formal).

4) Professional competence

4.1) Members/Chartered Linguists will work only in areas of professional practice for which they have the necessary professional, technical, practical and theoretical knowledge and skills.

5) Continuing Professional Development

5.1) CIOL endorses Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as good professional practice. It strongly recommends practising Members to engage in CPD to maintain, update and develop their skills.

5.2) For Chartered Linguists, CPD is a condition of initial and continuing registration.

6) Responsibilities to those they work with or alongside

6.1) Members/Chartered Linguists will take responsibility for their work and for its quality, even where part or all of the work is sub-contracted.

6.2) Before accepting any work, Members/Chartered Linguists will consider carefully whether they are breaching any aspect of the Code in doing so. They should disclose to their client/employer any actual or potential conflict of interest or any other factor that may breach the requirement on them to carry out all work to the requisite professional standard before accepting the work.

6.3) Where the nature of the work is for an independent client, either directly or through an agency, then Members/Chartered Linguists will carry out all work impartially.

6.4) Members/Chartered Linguists will take all reasonable precautions to keep information and material provided by clients/employers confidential and secure (except where disclosure is required by law). This requirement will also apply to Members/Chartered Linguists to whom part or all of a job is sub-contracted.

6.5) Members/Chartered Linguists will not use information acquired in the course of their work to gain unfair advantage (except where the nature of the work specifically allows this) or to disadvantage their client/employer once a service or employment contract has terminated.

7) Responsibilities to other members/Chartered Linguists and to CIOL

7.1) Members/Chartered Linguists will not act in any way that might bring individual professional colleagues, CIOL, and/or the language professions as a whole into disrepute.

7.2) Members/Chartered Linguists will show courtesy, honesty and integrity in their dealings with all individuals with whom they interact in the course of their work.

7.3) Members will treat everyone fairly and will not discriminate against anyone on any improper grounds, including age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity/paternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. For more details on CIOL’s commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and protected characteristics please see here.

7.4) In particular, Members/Chartered Linguists will ensure that statements made in a public arena and where the Member/Chartered Linguist identifies themself as a member of CIOL (through a statement and/or post nominals) are accurate and professional in tone and content. This includes, but is not limited to public meetings, Boards and Committees, social media channels and online fora/forums.

7.5) Members/Chartered Linguists will endeavour, to the best of their ability and capacity, to contribute to a professional community of practice.

7.6) Members/Chartered Linguists are required to engage with professional conduct and disciplinary procedures should a complaint be raised against them for an alleged breach of the Code.


[i] CIOL has arrangements with certain other organisations to recognise their members as Chartered Linguists. Approval is on an individual basis and upon application.