The Associated Press is maintaining a coronavirus topical guide that includes many rulings on spelling and common usage. The university is following this guide when writing and editing.
Missouri State has a limited membership to the online AP Stylebook. More information on each of these entries is available in the online guide. If you create content for the university, contact Andrea Mostyn to request access.
Updates and additions
A family of viruses, some of which cause disease in people and animals, named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces.
The viruses can cause the common cold or more severe diseases such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and COVID-19, the latter of which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.
Referring to simply the coronavirus is acceptable on first reference in stories about COVID-19. While the phrasing incorrectly implies there is only one coronavirus, it is clear in this context. Also acceptable on first reference: the new coronavirus or the new virus for the virus; COVID-19 for the disease caused by the virus.
Passages and stories focusing on the science of the disease require sharper distinctions.
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. When referring specifically to the virus, the COVID-19 virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 are acceptable.
But, because COVID-19 is the name of the disease, not the virus, it is not accurate to write a new virus called COVID-19. Also incorrect are usages such as COVID-19 spreads through the air; scientists are investigating how long COVID-19 may remain on surfaces; she worries about catching COVID-19. In each of those, it should be the coronavirus, not COVID-19.
Do not shorten to COVID, even in headlines, unless part of a quotation or proper name.
In stories, do not refer simply to coronavirus without the article the. Not: She is concerned about coronavirus. Omitting the is acceptable in headlines and in uses such as: He said coronavirus concerns are increasing.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, breathing trouble, sore throat, muscle pain, and loss of taste or smell. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia.
SARS is acceptable on first reference for the disease first identified in Asia in 2003. Spell out severe acute respiratory syndrome later in the story.
MERS is acceptable on first reference for the disease first identified in 2012. Spell out Middle East respiratory syndrome later in the story.
All capitalized; stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
cancel, canceled, canceling, cancellation
Avoid using this term unless in a direct quotation in reference to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Instead, use phrasing such as the coronavirus relief bill, the coronavirus aid bill, the coronavirus rescue package, etc., for the U.S. government’s $2.2 trillion package to help businesses, workers and the health care system. Do not refer to it as a stimulus or a stimulus package, etc.
contact tracing (new)
The practice of tracking down and monitoring people who have been in close proximity to someone who is infected. Do not enclose in quotation marks. Include a hyphen for clarity when used as a modifier: The state’s contact-tracing efforts. Consider rephrasing to avoid the term or for variety: The state’s efforts to identify people who have had close contact with the nursing home worker.
Avoid this term. Usually better to use words like disease or illness, or more specific words like virus.
distance learning (n., adj.)
No hyphen. Examples: Schools are turning to distance learning. He is taking a distance learning class.
An epidemic is the rapid spread of disease in a certain population or region; a pandemic is an epidemic that has spread worldwide. Follow declarations of public health officials when writing. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Do not write global pandemic, which is redundant.
Use a hyphen.
Don’t use a hyphen.
Do not use a hyphen.
Only use if someone is being or has been treated by a medical professional. The vast majority of people with the virus are not hospitalized, and some may not seek care, so avoid using patients to refer to all people with the virus.
personal protective equipment
Don’t use PPE. If necessary to use PPE in a direct quotation, spell it out and explain the term.
shelter in place (v.), shelter-in-place (adj.)
Examples: The governor urged residents to shelter in place. Authorities issued a shelter-in-place order.
stay at home (v.), stay-at-home (adj.)
shutdown (n.), shut down (v.)
social distancing, socially distancing
No quote marks, no hyphen: Examples: The CDC is urging social distancing. The parents are taking social distancing precautions. They’ve been socially distancing themselves.
telecommute, telecommuting, telecommuter
travel, traveled, traveling, traveler
videoconference, videoconferencing; video chat
The singular possessive form of virus. Not virus’.