Quick Tips! Language During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Videos September 08, 2020

The coronavirus is changing everything, including the English language. And with more and more communications going out about the virus, it’s important that we use consistent and proper language when talking about it. In this Quick Tips! video, Interact Copywriter Rachel Rosen-Carroll shares three language tips for writing about the virus. 


Hello, this is Rachel Roseanne-Carroll, copy writer for Interact Communications here to share some really valuable COVID-19 quick communication tips that you need to know. 

So the coronavirus is changing everything, economy, education, and even the English language. So here are some really wonderful tips to keep your communication on point. I’ve really found the AP style, a topical guide on coronavirus to be really wonderful. 

But it’s like, it’s very long. And so I’m gonna give you the most essential things you need to know, right here, right now, let’s go. So first tip, even though viruses are an entire family you can refer to the coronavirus on the first reference to COVID-19 and we’ll all get what you’re talking about. 

Now, if you’re referring to the virus, you can say the COVID-19 virus, that works. But do keep in mind that COVID-19 is the name of the disease not the actual virus. So it would be incorrect to say I’m worried about catching COVID-19. It would be correct to say I’m worried about catching the coronavirus. You always want to lowercase the coronavirus and you want to keep the article, the, unless it’s in headlines or if you’re using coronavirus as an adjective, such as, they’ve voiced coronavirus concerns. 

Now AP style and Chicago for once agree that COVID-19 is all caps, so all caps COVID hyphen 19. But sources like the New York times and The Guardian, they use sentence case so it’s capital C, lower case O V I D hyphen 19. 

And The New Yorker uses small caps. So whatever you choose to use, mark it in your style guide and stay consistent. And finally remember that for hashtags, like #COVID19, don’t use hyphens or you’ll break the link. There was one possible exception I found in AP style. They say not to shorten to COVID even in headlines. 

So in other words, always say COVID hyphen 19 unless it’s part of a quote. However, I just don’t see that happening in common usage which is why all the quotes say just plain old COVID. So I wouldn’t sweat it for social media but perhaps keep it COVID-19 for your formal communications. 

Now here’s a word-nerd battle that’s been going on on the internet. Is it epidemic, is it pandemic? So both of those words, epidemic and pandemic, they first appeared in the 17th century in the wake of the great plagues, very cheerful I know. Pan means all, endemic comes from the word for people. So a pandemic is global, an epidemic affects a region or a population. 

So the World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic so that’s the word to use. Since pandemic implies all it would be redundant to say a global pandemic and no one wants to be redundant. So I hope those tips were helpful. Check out our blog. There are some more wonderful tips in there including some new COVID slang that you might want to be aware of and maybe even incorporate in your social media and some new slang that isn’t very nice and you should delete if it comes up on your social media comments.

 Also, there’s a great section on owning your tone which gives you some tips on everything from your email signature to your tweets. So thank you so much for tuning in. Be well, and I hope to see you soon on another quick tip, take care.


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