The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook is an English grammar style and usage guide created by American journalists working for or connected with the Associated Press to standardize mass communication. Like many public-facing organizations and news outlets, Lou Hammond Group follows the AP Stylebook to promote consistency for ease of reading and a common understanding in press statements, news articles and other formal announcements.

As publicists, we see firsthand how the media climate changes to address global or domestic crises and we must always keep up with the changing story — utilizing AP Style along the way. We understand writing during uncertain circumstances may not be a part of your regular routine and potentially out of your comfort zone. To help streamline your writing, we have pulled together a few tips and rules from the Associated Press Stylebook related to disaster coverage.

Pandemic and Epidemics

  • An epidemic is the rapid spreading of disease in a certain population or region; a pandemic is an epidemic that has spread worldwide.
  • Use Dr. in first reference as a title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of dental surgery, doctor of medicine, doctor of optometry, doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of podiatric medicine, or doctor of veterinary medicine.
  • On first reference, use Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Precede with national, federal or U.S. if needed for clarity. CDC is acceptable on second reference for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The shorthand CDC takes a singular verb: The CDC is investigating.
  • Stories should contain a mention of a disease’s official name, accompanied by an explanation. Common phrasing such as “the new virus” is acceptable on first reference.
    • For example: COVID-19 must be mentioned somewhere in an article referencing coronavirus.


  • Capitalize the word hurricane when it’s part of a storm’s assigned name — e.g., Hurricane Dorian.
  • Regardless of the hurricane’s name, use it and its, not she, her or hers or he, him or his, in pronoun references.
  • Hurricanes and typhoons are tropical cyclones with a minimum sustained surface wind of 74 mph or more. Hurricanes develop east of the international date line, and typhoons originate west of the line. They are called cyclones in the Indian Ocean and in Australia. After one loses strength, often after landfall, it downgrades to tropical storm status.
  • Capitalize category and use a numeral when you give a hurricane’s strength.
    • For example: A Category 5 storm made landfall Tuesday night.


  • Earthquakes are registered in magnitude and should be written as either a magnitude 5.9 quake or a 5.9-magnitude quake.
  • You don’t need to write Richter scale or any other scale. According to the AP Stylebook, the Richter scale is no longer widely used.
  • Temblor is a synonym for earthquake. Tremblor is not. Quake also is acceptable.
  • The main earthquake source is the U.S. Geological Survey. Note the name.
  • According to AP, “The word epicenter refers to the point on Earth’s surface above the underground center, or focus, of an earthquake.”


  • Tornado strength is measured by enhanced F-scale rating from EF0 to EF5. An EF2 or higher is considered a significant tornado.
  • Tornadoes is the plural of tornado
  • A tornado warning is issued by local weather service to warn of existing
  • A tornado watch alerts the public to the possibility of a tornado in the next several hours.

During times of crises, the public looks to its news sources to stay up to date on the latest news. The AP Stylebook is a valuable and helpful point of reference no matter the topic.