COVID-19 Writing Tips

COVID-19 brought huge changes to the way we live, do business, deal with cybersecurity, handle workers' compensation claims — and our language. 

The Associated Press (AP) stylebook created a new topical section around the terms that says "Because COVID-19 is the name of the disease, not the virus, it is not accurate to write "a new virus called COVID-19" and not to abbreviate its name to COVID or Covid even in headlines. The guide adds, "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."

Good to know. 

For more context, Marc Nichol dives into the meanings of terms and phrases surrounding the coronavirus in this piece. 

And, one of my favorite writing instructors, Anne Wylie, teamed up with PRSA for an excellent webinar on writing during these times. 

Just about everyone has been affected by COVID-19 and economic shutdowns.  Some people have been furloughed or have been laid off and face major financial problems.  Others are overwhelmed with work, often while also caring for small children and are overwhelmed.  Just about everyone is stressed.  Our cognitive ability is lower than usual, so Wylie recommends using short words and short sentences in short copy. 

The webinar is available and free until October.  If you write in any capacity, I encourage you to watch the recording.  

 

Meaningless filler words

This piece captures my thoughts after years – decades, really – of writing personnel releases.  Sometimes the company is genuinely happy about securing a new hire, but "pleased to announce" is such a waste of words. You wouldn't have hired them if you didn't think it was a good idea. Just say XYZ has hired; John Smith has joined, or if you must, XXX announces that XXX has joined and save your quotes to emphasize the qualities about the person that make them an asset to your clients. Because, that's what the readers care about – how is this going to help me? 

Overcoming “Writers Block”

My favorite writing teacher Anne Wylie provides practical tips on the writing process in this article

I'll add that when you're just shoving copy around on a page, it's time to take a break and change the channel in your brain.  Check your email, toss the frisbee for the dog, walk around the office, get some coffee or water, exercise, or talk to someone and you'll stimulate the flow of ideas. But, enough from me; here is Anne's advice – and see how cleverly she promoted a business offering?  

Prepping for a media interview

My good friend Yvonne Guibert has started the Experts in WorkersCompensation blog (http://expertsinwc.com/) and invited me to contribute some articles on media relations.  When working with the media, keep the "relations" word in mind.  What attributes go into building a business relationship?  Respect. Timeliness.  Accuracy. Understanding. Helpfulness. These apply to your relationship with reporters.  The first post deals with preparing for a media interview–a process that is much easier now that Twitter, LinkedIn and online publications are around.  I hope the post is useful and that you'll email me with any questions at helen@kingknight.com.