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Avoiding Common Issues in Chemistry Manuscripts

Writing chemistry papers is a specialty all its own. Naming compounds and techniques correctly and formatting appropriately are important. Here are some common issues that appear in chemistry manuscripts that can be fixed easily.

Chemical Names

1. Like any scientific discipline, chemistry has its own language. The correct writing and formatting of chemical names is crucial, so that your exact meaning can be conveyed. Use IUPAC naming conventions for all compounds. For example, ferrous oxide should be written as FeO or as iron (II) oxide because ferrous iron has a charge of +2. Other naming conventions apply to organic compounds. For example, the compound shown below is correctly named 2-methylpentane and not 4-methylpentane because substituents on organic compounds are written so that they are positioned on the lowest carbon number.

2.Subscripts and superscripts should be used correctly. For example, write the formula for carbon dioxide as CO2, not CO2 or CO2. When writing formulae for ions, write the charge as a superscript. For example, the phosphate ion should be written as PO43-.

3.For long compound names, such as 2,4-methoxylheptanoic acid, consider denoting them with a number. For example, at its first appearance in the manuscript, you would write, “2,4-methoxylheptanoic acid (1).” After the name has been defined, refer to it as (1) throughout the rest of the manuscript. Follow all journal guidelines regarding how these numbers should be formatted.

4.When writing chemical names in manuscripts, choose the shortest form, whether it is the formula or the name. For example, you would write CO2 instead of carbon dioxide but heme instead of C34H32FeN4O4.

5.Only the trade names of chemicals should be capitalized. For example, you would write Advil or Aleve but ibuprofen.

6. When writing about techniques, please use the correct diction. For example, NMR analysis is carried out on an instrument, not a machine. In addition, the naming conventions of techniques are often confused. Please note the correct terminology for these commonly used techniques: NMR, IR, and Raman spectroscopy but UV-visible spectrophotometry and mass spectrometry.

An awareness of these issues in chemistry manuscripts and how to avoid them will help to make your reviewers’ reading, and your review process, go more smoothly.

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