Here are some of the latest updates from the AP Stylebook when writing about the coronavirus, COVID-19 and related terms.
How to refer to the virus
- Avoid using SARS-CoV-2, which is the actual name of the virus.
- It’s acceptable to refer to the coronavirus on first reference in stories about the current pandemic.
- A year into the outbreak, don’t use the terms “new coronavirus” or “novel coronavirus” unless needed to distinguish between viruses.
- The term coronavirus is generally acceptable in references to the pandemic: coronavirus cases, coronavirus tests, coronavirus variants.
- When referring specifically to the virus, the COVID-19 virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 are acceptable, as is simply the coronavirus.
- Use the term COVID-19 when referring specifically to the disease: COVID-19 treatments, COVID-19 patients, COVID-19 deaths, recovering from COVID-19.
- It’s not accurate to write a virus called COVID-19.
- The shortened form COVID is acceptable if necessary for space in headlines, and in direct quotations and proper names.
How to use other terms
- When using social distancing, don’t add quotation marks or hyphen. The shortened versions distancing or distanced are acceptable on second reference if clear in the context.
- Superspreader is one word. It refers to an individual who spreads a virus or disease to an unusually large number of people, or a setting or event where an infection is spread to a large number of people.
- Use variant or version to describe a new form of a virus. Avoid using the numbers given to variants such as B.1.1.7 for the one first found in Britain, as well as country labels like the South Africa variant (use the variant first detected in South Africa instead).
- The terms immunization and vaccination can generally be used interchangeably. Don’t refer to a vaccine as a drug, medicine or serum.
- Coronavirus vaccines are made in various ways. It’s not necessary to include the type of vaccine, unless relevant, in most stories. Use the manufacturer’s name if needed to distinguish between vaccines: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax, Sanofi, Sinopharm, Sinovac, CanSino and Johnson & Johnson (J&J on second reference).
- Avoid saying a vaccine was approved, until full, final approval has been granted by a regulatory agency. Until then, the vaccines are still considered experimental. Describe them as authorized for emergency use; allowed for emergency use; given the green light, etc.
- Do not use the term anti-vaxxer for someone who opposes vaccinations. If necessary in a direct quotation, explain it.
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