AP Style Updates: COVID-19


[Editor’s Note: One of the most popular articles on PRNEWSonline.com is a review of AP style. We took that as a sign and decided to deliver a series of AP style updates that may be helpful for communicating about emerging topics. Our series will look at terms used in articles about cryptocurrency and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), among others.]

Today, we are reviewing common COVID-19 terminology, to ensure the proper use of important announcements and posts. While the 2020 print version of the “Associated Press Stylebook” squeaked in a few terms ahead of press time, up-to-date terms can be found in its online directory. If you do not have a subscription, several points of sale, including Columbia Journalism Review (RCJ), PR Newswire’s Beyond Bylines blog and Poynter, inform communication professionals.

According to an article written by Poynter reporter Angela Fu, in April 2021, the coronavirus topic guide contained 74 entries. Here is some common terms be careful in your writing.


“The coronavirus” is now acceptable as a first reference, even if it wrongly implies that there is only one coronavirus. “New coronavirus” or “new coronavirus” no longer needs to be used, since the pandemic is over a year old.


The coronavirus impacts hospitalizations on a daily basis.

Individual protection equipment

“Personal protective equipment” must be used during the first referral. PPE is acceptable on the second reference.


Personal protective equipment will be available at the nurse’s office. Please send students here if they lack PPE.

COVID-19 against coronavirus

“Coronavirus” can be used to refer to the pandemic, but it is a general virus. COVID-19 is the specific disease resulting from the coronavirus. If you use “COVID-19” on the first reference, feel free to use COVID on the second or to save space in the headlines.


The coronavirus pandemic has tested the limits of the healthcare system, with doctors and nurses treating a majority of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

Pandemic vs global pandemic

Just use “pandemic”. The “global pandemic” is redundant. Also avoid using the term “epidemic” when referring to COVID-19, as it refers to an epidemic in a specific region.


The pandemic has taken its toll on international supply chains.

Vaccines / Vaccination / Immunization

Use “vaccines” as a name, a product that stimulates the body’s immune system. “Vaccination” is the act of giving the vaccine. “Immunization” and vaccination can be used interchangeably.


She stood in line for the vaccine, watching nurses run a vaccination clinic.

Super Spreader

“Superspreader” is a word and does not contain a hyphen. Use it to describe a person or an event.


Attendees now view Family Reunion 2020 as a super broadcast event.

Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention

At the first referral, use “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”. On the second reference, “the CDC” is acceptable.


We are monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for advice on wearing the mask. The CDC said it would update its forecast on Tuesday.


“Wearing a mask” and “washing your hands” require a hyphen. “Contact tracing” and “distance education” do not.


A nurse who came to our distance learning session demonstrated the correct hand washing procedure.

Pickup vs Pickup

Use “curbside pickup”, not “curbside pickup”. Use “pick up” as a verb.


You can pick up your pizza at the curbside pickup of the restaurant.


Refrain from using “anti-vaxxer” except in a direct quote, which will require a more detailed explanation.

These are some of the terms associated with COVID-19. Learn more about this LinkedIn post.

Nicole Schuman is editor-in-chief of PRNEWS. Am here @buffalo

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