This post was actually prompted by a question on how to write the word ‘ice’ – ICE? or ice?

If you need to write about ice or LSD (or other drugs) – these tips will help.


In a recent stint as Deputy News Director at  a major Australian commercial channel, I’d recommend staff acquaint themselves with drugs – well, how to correctly write the names of drugs anyway. Many news stories (crime stories, court stories, even political stories on legislation) involve drugs – and news organisations need to report about these drugs.

Correct writing of drug names is important – even in TV news – when writing appears on the screen in graphics or ‘straps’ or supers.

I am a conservative parent – so out of touch with this topic – as were many of my newsroom senior ‘production desk peers’. We’d often do stories about ‘new drugs’ being introduced to our cities. I’d have to go and research drug names and how to correctly write the names.   Did a name stand for an abbreviation of a chemical compound?

We did a story on a drug called ‘cat’ – how should we write it – CAT (if the letters stood for some chemical compound) or cat.

If you are interested in knowing: the name comes from the ‘cat’ inside the chemical name


So it’s not CAT – it’s cat – or even better ‘cat’.


Yes, I’m a nerd for correct writing.

word nerd CU

O.K. – I’ll move into my word nerd mode now – on the difference between:

  1. abbreviations using capitals
  2. acronyms, and
  3. ‘normal words’.

LSD – is an abbreviation (for LySergic acid Diethylamide) using capital letters. you pronounce each letter separately. You write LSD in capitals. It’s also called ‘acid’ as well as many other nicknames.

LSD is not an acronym. An acronym is where the capital letters form a ‘pronounce-able word’. It usually requires well-placed vowels – for example LASER which is the abbreviated form of Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Through common usage, acronyms can become ‘normal words’ in normal lower case – rather than capitals – LASER becomes laser.

LASER is an acronym. L-S-D is an abbreviation using capitals.

ASIO is an acronym as you say it as a word. FBI and CIA are abbreviations using capitals because you say the individual letters.

Ice  and Cat – are ‘normal words’ – the drug ‘ice’ is nicknamed ‘ice’ because it looks like ice.  I’ve explained how ‘Cat’ got its name. Ice  and  Cat are not an acronyms or  abbreviations using capitals.

Ice  and Cat can be written in quotation marks to show they are a nicknames for the drugs – not real ice or a real cat  – although many news organisations dispense with the quotation marks.

If you ever need to write ice on screen – it is not ICE (capitals). The letters don’t stand for some longer chemical name as they do in LSD.

Maybe I’m just a square, studious type – but I like to understand different names/slang – whether it’s police slang or street names for different drugs. Here is a link to a resource (actually to help parents understand the street slang).

In news writing you’ll usually use the ‘proper chemical names’ (like LSD) or the common name (like ‘ice’). Still, it’s good to know different nicknames – so you know your Tina from your Molly from your Lucy from your Mary Jane.


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