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Discovering chemistry
Discovering chemistry

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3 Another look at the language of chemistry

So now you have had a look at how atoms join together to form larger structures which can be described as either molecular or non-molecular. These have been elements (e.g. carbon and aluminium) and compounds (e.g sodium chloride and silica).

From now on the focus will be on compounds and specifically, how chemists use a shorthand notation to represent them.

In fact by now you might have got the impression that chemists speak a language of their own – and this is true – it’s the language of formulas and equations. With regular use this tends to become second nature but a little effort in coming to terms with these representations can open the door to so much.

The word ‘formula’ has a Latin origin meaning ‘form’ or ‘shape’. The plural is formulae and you will often come across this. However, this module uses the form that is becoming increasingly common: formulas.

You’ve seen several examples of chemical formulas in the preceding sections, now’s the time to explore in a bit more detail what the formula of a compound actually tells you.