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AP Style Rules: COVID-19, One Year Later

It's time for another quarterly roundup of timely AP Style rule reminders. And since National Grammar Day took place March 4, we're sharing some of our favorite tweets from that day throughout the post.

COVID-19: One year later

It’s been more than a year since the WHO declared the coronavirus a global pandemic. Here are a few important style guide reminders for the latest developments around it:

  • Since we're a year into the outbreak, don't use the terms new coronavirus or novel coronavirus unless needed for context.
  • The term coronavirus is OK in references to the pandemic. COVID-19 refers to the disease.
  • Vaccines are the products that stimulate the body’s immune system. Vaccination is the act of giving a vaccine. Immunization and vaccination can generally be used interchangeably.
  • People who do not fully recover from COVID-19 and experience lingering symptoms are called long-haulers. It can be referred to as long-haul COVID-19 or long COVID-19.
  • Superspreader is one word. Do not include a hyphen.
  • Use a hyphen in mask-wearing and hand-washing. Do not include a hyphen in contact tracing and distance learning.
  • Curbside pickup is a noun, but pick up is two words when used as a verb.

We covered other AP Style rules for COVID-19 in our March and June roundups from last year.


Capitalize March Madness when referencing the annual college basketball tournament. Curious about other sporting events? Check out our 2021 sports calendar to plan your coverage.

Lowercase esports in reference to competitive multiplayer gaming. eSports and e-sports should only be used if part of a formal name.

Unless it’s written differently in an event name or formal title, motor sports is two words. The same goes for water sports.


Capitalize president when used as a formal title before one or more names: President Joe Biden, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Lowercase it when used alone: She is running for president. The president spoke on Monday in the Rose Garden.

Presidents Day does not have an apostrophe.


During the impeachment of former President Donald Trump in February, @APStylebook shared a few rule reminders:

  • Impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. It’s the equivalent of an indictment – an indication that there’s enough evidence to warrant a trial.
  • Always capitalize references to the U.S. Constitution, even if the “U.S.” modifier isn’t included. For other states and nations, only capitalize it if the name of the state or nation is included: the Canadian Constitution; the state constitution. Lowercase constitutional.
  • The section of the Constitution that says the Senate "shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments" is Article 1, Section 3.
  • Impeachment conviction requires a supermajority, two-thirds of senators voting.


Here are a few random, but helpful, food reminders:

  • PB&J is acceptable in all references, but if you do want to spell it out, don’t use hyphens. BLT is OK as well!
  • A gourmand is a person who likes good food and tends to eat to excess. A gourmet is a person who likes fine food and is an excellent judge of food and drink.
  • When writing a recipe, always use figures for ingredient amounts.
  • Use a hyphen in fast-food.


Use figures and a hyphen when referencing betting odds. For example, the odds were 3-1.

Although “to” generally isn’t necessary, if you do need it, include hyphens: 4-to-1 odds.

Black Lives Matter

On the first reference, use Black Lives Matter or the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM is OK for the second reference.

As neither “all lives matter” nor “blue lives matter” is a formal movement, do not capitalize them. Enclose them in quotes.

Capitalize #BlackLivesMatter. Helpful tip: Always capitalize each word in a hashtag – it will help screen readers understand it.

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, a day of merrymaking, takes place on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent. It’s also referred to as Fat Tuesday.

Instead of the normal parades and parties, this year looked a little different due to the pandemic. House floats sprouted up across the city.

And in case you missed it... added 450 new entries in March that reflect the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and other major news stories from 2020.

Additions and updates include BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), overpolice, doomscrolling, sponcon, and deepfake.


See the original post on Beyond Bylines.

Rocky Parker

Rocky Parker is the Digital Content Lead at Cision and has been with the company since 2010. In addition to writing content for Beyond Bylines and the Cision blog, she works with journalists, bloggers, and content creators to create their targeted newsfeeds from PR Newswire for Journalists. Rocky also counsels on SEO and content writing best practices.