More On Nomenclature | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 32 | p. 6 | Letters
Issue Date: August 11, 2008

More On Nomenclature

Department: Letters

I was prompted to write this after reading a letter from Jack Gilbert pointing out a “bastardized” use of chemical nomenclature (C&EN, June 30, page 6). Actually, the nomenclature problem in the chemical literature is much worse than the example given, and has been for a few years.

Most of the problems seem to arise when naming carboxylic acid derivatives using the common name as the base. Such errors occur frequently in published articles (editors please note), research proposals (which are sent to us for review), and even in chemical suppliers’ catalogs. For example, if you want to buy acrylyl chloride from Aldrich, Lancaster, or Fluka, you will not find it in their catalogs. It is listed as acryloyl chloride (incorrect: for all carboxylic acid derivatives, “-ic acid” becomes “-yl chloride,” so butanoic acid becomes butanoyl chloride, but butyric acid becomes butyryl chloride). Now that’s not a huge problem if you are using the hard-copy catalog, because you will probably come across acryloyl chloride while you are skimming through the list and recognize it as the compound you want, but incorrectly named. However, if you only use an electronic search capability, you may be led to believe that nobody sells the stuff anymore.

Another problem we often see in the literature is incorrect use of language. For example, how often are we seeing “sterics” and “electronics” in papers these days? These should be “steric effects” and “electronic effects” in the context of organic reactions—actually steric(s) is not a noun anyway, while electronics is a noun that refers to a particular branch of physics/technology. Or how many authors claim that “our laboratory recently discovered ???” when a laboratory is a place in which people (hopefully) discover things? Minor infractions yes, but annoying nonetheless.

Anthony J. Pearson



July 21, page 57: High school students who won Bayer’s recent environmental film festival were identified incorrectly in this photo. They are the ones wearing sunglasses: Benjamin Swanson (from left), Dylan Morris, Ben Kepner, and Andrew Benton.

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