Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Word Doctor

I don't see Covid-19 ever taking on the stigma of an AIDS diagnosis -- certainly not an automatic death sentence like it was before the so-called cocktail made Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome a manageable disease -- so I doubt language precision will ever be as big an issue. Still, I thought it might be worth sharing this entry from the stylebook at work.

Not all-uppercase is how we render the name for the illness caused by the new coronavirus. It derives from COronaVIrusDisease. The virus itself is scientifically named SARS-CoV-2, but we can refer to the new coronavirus, (preferred over novel coronavirus) or simply the coronavirus if clear in context..
The main takeaway editors on the desk have been told is to think of the "new coronavrius" as you would HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and Covid-19 as AIDS. In other words, you get tested for the new coronavirus -- not for Covid-19 -- just as you get tested for HIV (antibodies) rather than AIDS. A doctor diagnoses you with Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus -- just like a doctor diagnoses someone with AIDS, which is caused by HIV.

One notable difference is that there is only an HIV antibody test. With the new coronavirus, you can be tested for antibodies or tested for the virus. Still, you are being tested for the presence of the virus or its antibodies rather than the disease, as people exposed to the virus can be asymptomatic.

UPDATE: I've gotten a couple inquiries about the use of COVID-19. All caps isn’t wrong -- it's the official way and how the Associated Press stylizes it. NYT and WSJ have a rule that if an acronym can be pronounced, you only capitalize the first letter. (So, for instance, NLGJA would remain all caps while COVID becomes Covid. WaPo does covid-19 for some reason.) I probably should have left that part out. It’s really more about how there’s no such thing as a Covid (or COVID) test, which is technically like saying AIDS test, although not as big a deal, IMO. Sorry for the confusion.

1 comment:

John said...

This is useful info that I suspect is largely unknown to most. Thank you for the clarification.