Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (chemistry)

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Sodium phosphates[edit]

I've been having trouble figuring out what to do with Trisodium phosphate and Sodium phosphate. These both refer to the same chemical. It seems like Trisodium phosphate is the name commercially used for selling the chemical as a cleaning chemical. Sodium phosphate is the name used on food ingredients lists, etc., and I *think* is the "systematic" chemical name, but I'm pretty rusty on my chemistry. Does anyone have any suggestions? I assume that we want one article with a redirect, rather than two separate articles on the two uses, but I could be wrong. -- Creidieki 19:29, 13 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I took a look at the IUPAC rules as listed in my CRC Handbook of Chem & Physics, and it looks like you can do either sodium phosphate or trisodium phosphate. Personally I prefer sodium phosphate for Na3PO4, but IUPAC actually gives you a choice. One confusing notation in widespread use is "Sodium phosphate tribasic" (for Na3PO4), and sodium phosphate dibasic (for Na2HPO4) etc. I think we just need to choose one of the two IUPAC names and have a redirect from any other names, and include links to the hydrogen and dihydrogen phosphate salts. We should also be consistent between the sodium and the potassium phosphates in whatever we use. Walkerma 20:11, 14 Feb 2005 (UTC)

A non-IUPAC solution may be to use sodium phosphate as Na3PO4, sodium hydrogenphosphate as Na2HPO4 and sodium dihydrogenphosphate as NaH2PO4. I learnt it this way to learn acidic salts, and I think this should be a convention. The same could apply for other acid salts like sodium hydrogencarbonate (NaHCO3). -x42bn6 06:52, 31 August 2005 (UTC)

General guideline[edit]

I have copied the relevant sections from Wikipedia:WikiProject Chemicals/Style guidelines here, as it seems to cover the discussion that went before. All comments are more than welcome! Physchim62 7 July 2005 10:56 (UTC)

  • As known, this is very good work. If the Chemicals Style Guidelines has now reached publication worthiness, why not put all of it here? This is where is has been targeted for anyhow, and now we can continue the discussion here, out in the open instead of only within the Chemicals wikiproject. Wim van Dorst July 7, 2005 19:23 (UTC).
I think it is fine as is. I will start nitpicking once we have adopted it as official policy! Let's not forget though, from our discussion on this topic, there is MUCH more to writing articles than naming conventions, we will probably need to write a more comprehensive guide at some point. That IMHO should not get mixed up in the naming page, general style is a separate issue. In the meantime, thanks to PC for navigating us through the minefield that is chemical nomenclature and giving us a clear, balanced guide to naming, that all of us opinionated, stubborn chemists will try to ignore! Seriously, though PC has taught me a lot. Thanks again, Walkerma 7 July 2005 20:23 (UTC)

To answer Wim's point, I do not think that the rest of the style guidelines have reached a point where they are useful to those outside the WP:Chem—they are still a work-in-progress. However, the title section seemed to have a good enough consensus to be presented to the non-initiated. Physchim62 8 July 2005 10:08 (UTC)

References to isotopes[edit]

While tidying NMR spectroscopy, Nuclear magnetic resonance, and Phosphorus, I noticed that sometimes we have e.g. 31P and sometimes we have e.g. Phosphorous-31. It seems like the latter would be clearer to non-chemists, and easier to link to the article on the element, but also a bit clumsy to use repeatedly. I was also thinking there should be something indicating "this is the isotope of Phosphorous that has an atomic mass of 31" to the novice reader, though I'm not sure whether that should be in the element's article, in some footnote, or someplace else. I thought this would be a good place to get some feedback on that and perhaps establish a working standard. -- Beland 04:11, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

Systematic names[edit]

Are we meant to be using systematic names all the time except for the exceptions named on this page, or are we meant to use whatever we feel best? --PhiJ 09:21, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

We can't have a policy which says "use systematic names all the time" because systematic names are not uniquely defined. This page offers some guidelines on the basis of the titles of existing articles on chemicals; read it, then use whatever you feel best. If you want advice about a specific chemical, you can always ask at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Chemicals. Physchim62 (talk) 09:31, 27 January 2006 (UTC)

there already: article naming should give priority to what the majority of English speakers would most easily recognize

Sulfur, cesium, aluminum. The idea of international standards for spelling is nonsense[edit]

Here is what the page currently says: Element names Traditionally, the names of three elements have been spelt differently in US and British English. With the onset of computer searching of databases it became necessary to standardize these spellings as follows:[1]

COMMENT: To employ a Britishism: bollocks. The reference given to the 1990 IUPAC redbook, as the WP:V, is 3 years out of date. Since 1993 IUPAC has recognized cesium and aluminum as alternate names, which means you can use what you like. Sulphur (vs. sulfur) isn't even listed as a varient any more in IUPAC tables: [2]

So. What the page MEANS to say is: With the onset of computer searching of databases it became necessary to try to convince others of the standardization of these spellings as the British have spelt them, since it has been becomming rapidly apparent that most of the chemical world uses other spellings than what the British have traditionally learnt, oh my. Which indeed any search will find the English science world does, if one does a simple Google Test for any of these terms and counts hits.

So how about we be honest? IUPAC doesn't care. Really, it doesn't. Thus, THERE IS NO INTERNATIONAL STANDARD. That's a fiction gotten up to get Wikipedia to use British English here, where the American variant is more common in the English-speaking scientific world. So how about we simply switch to what's most commonly used? I'm willing to do it by any database hit test you like. Sight unseen. And winner take all. Steve 00:21, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

We don't decide naming based on Google searches, though they may be used as an argument when two names are both considered OK (such as titanium tetrachloride vs. titanium(IV) chloride), which I gather is your case here. Demographics will always favor an American spelling, so your Google result is not surprising. In effect your argument becomes, "Wikipedia should switch to all-American spelling" which is not likely to go down well! Checking your 1993 reference does indeed indicate that cesium is acceptable as an "option," as is aluminum. The word "option" does not (to my mind) indicate that IUPAC now prefers these spellings. Rather, it indicates to me that caesium and aluminium are still the official names, but IUPAC has to accept the fact that the ACS has stubbornly refused to switch over to those names (unlike the RSC, which switched over from sulphur to sulfur). We prefer to standardize on one name per element, and I'd rather go with the official IUPAC main name which is also standard right across Wikipedia, rather than the optional name. For everything else, there are redirects. Walkerma 04:52, 6 July 2006 (UTC)
Completely agree with Walkerma. The Brits accepted the American spelling for sulfur but the Americans did not accept the IUPAC decision for British spelling of aluminium and caesium. Lets leave it as IUPAC decided in 1990. --Bduke 05:44, 6 July 2006 (UTC)
Why would we want to leave it as somebody decided it 16 years ago? The world moves on, folks. There's a hilarious story on the web about a British chem factory where the pipes are still labeled OOV and MA (oil of vitriol and muriatic acid). Get over it. The only thing worse than having the majority users of a language decide on convention, is having the MINORITY users decide on convention. Sorry, but you getting two minority words for giving up one, when the rest of the world's active chemists don't agree with you, is completely narcissistic and ridiculous.
This is not an America vs. everybody thing. It it was, I'd be arguing against the metric system (I'm not). Will we ever be in a position where the majority of the world's users of scientific English *aren't* Americans? I have no doubt that day will come. Should *Americans* when that day comes bow to *majority* standards in English science language? Sure. Right now the language of world air traffic control is bad English. We put up with it. And so must you.
Finally, please give up the notion that there's any such thing as an "IUPAC standard main name" for elements. That's still your imagination working overtime. Again, get over it. Both uses are acceptable, and the majority of chemists ought to decide which they want. Steve 05:58, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

We are already in a position where the majority of the world's users of scientific English aren't Americans. English is the language of science. Of course for the majority, english is now not their first language. This is not a question of the Brits and American's trading. It was a decision taken by IUPAC which has a majority of members who are neither American or British. Unfortunately the US has a record of ignoring IUPAC while other countries accept its recommendations. A good example is the wide use of kcal/mol in ACS and AIP journals, while all European journals strongly discourage that use and often insist on the correct SI unit of kJ/mol. --Bduke 08:25, 6 July 2006 (UTC)

Steve, you're better off not shouting so loudly about things which you do not know about. The current list of element names in English is here: it dates from 2004, not 1990. The final version is not available online, but was published in 2005 under ISBN 0854044388 by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Now can anyone find a reference to the quote from a US Nobel Prize winner: "They can make me write it [aluminium], but they can't make me say it". Physchim62 (talk) 08:51, 7 July 2006 (UTC)
Looks like they've backed off a bit from 1993 where they put both names in the main text. Here they merely use a superscript letter and footer note to remark in each case that an "alternate spelling is commonly used." Not an alternate unapproved or unpreferred spelling. Your Nobelist (good luck finding the quote) would in any case be wrong-- they not only can't make him spell it "aluminum," but they don't try to. If IUPAC notes there's a common alternate spelling, you're saying either one is fine. Note they are not shy about saying that D and T are "commonly used" for hydrogen isotopes, but that 2H and 3H are "preferred." They don't do that with aluminum and cesium; therefore, there they have no preferred spelling. Further, they are being disingenuous-- in each case (aluminum and cesium) the "alternate spelling is commonly used," as they say; in fact in each case it's MORE commonly used in the literature. IUPAC should note that.
In any case, my point still stands. Since IUPAC has no formal stand that one spelling is correct or preferred, the text of th Wiki for which this is the talk page, as it stands, is wrong. Are you going to fix it, or should I? Steve 16:26, 7 July 2006 (UTC)

They're not backing off, it is clear that aluminium and caesium (and sulfur) are preferred, that's why they're listed in the table of preferred names. The 1993 document also lists ferrum for iron, natrium for sodium, etc, but nobody is suggesting we go back to speaking Latin. If you try to change this long-standing guideline, you will be reverted. Point. --Physchim62 (talk) 15:03, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

Recent literature search (last ten years) for "aluminium oxide" vs. "aluminum oxide." The American spelling has more than 10 times as many references. So much for an "international standard."

--Cubic Hour (talk) 10:14, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

With this in mind, I've added a bit of text to the description for this. I'm not changing the "consensus" standard yet, just adding a bit to explain that wikipedia goes against what's demonstrably more common in the literature.--Cubic Hour (talk) 18:19, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

Caesium v Cesium[edit]

So IUPAC prefers caesium. But I still hold that Cesium should be the title of the wikipedia entry. Firstly, Cesium is the spelling used by the American Chemical Society and given that most wikipedia users are American I think that should be reflected.

But more importantly, "Generally, article naming should give priority to what the majority of English speakers would most easily recognize, with a reasonable minimum of ambiguity, while at the same time making linking to those articles easy and second nature." The caesium spelling flies clearly in the face of this general rule. 1. Majority of English speakers clearly recognize Cesium better than Caesium 2. Cesium maintains the reasonable minimum of ambiguity 3. Linking to those articles is not second nature given that most people will use cesium in writing other articles.

Of course, it is only a general rule, but look at the reason given for breaking this rule.

"With the onset of computer searching of databases it became necessary to standardize these spellings as follows"

Right, if that's the logic, we should use the spelling most commonly found in databases, Cesium! Although it might sound jingoist, most scientific databases are run from American universities and organizations. These use primarily the American spelling cesium. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Maquih (talkcontribs) 17:14, 2 March 2007 (UTC).

Just a comment about American spelling. As a Canadian, I was trained early to use British spelling and I used to scoff at what I thought were ignorant American spellings. Then I found out that the US spellings were created on purpose, to make it easier for non-English immigrants to deal with the inconsistencies and needless complexity of English on their arrival in the US. Since then, I have been a supporter of US spellings. Seems like a good reason to adopt US spellings for the rest of the non-native English world.

I'm a Brit working in the US, and I like to think I'm "bilingual". I can accept your view in general, and even support it in some cases, but that's not a reason to support this particular change, IMHO. Do Americans learn about Julius Cesar in school? I'm sure that the IUPAC committee weighed things carefully when making their choice. On Wikipedia we try to follow the IUPAC recommendations as the default, and there is no compelling argument here to go against that. I hope that in time, the ACS will recommend caesium, the same way the RSC has begun to recommend sulfur. Walkerma 04:21, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
We don't learn about Julius Cesar, but in French, Spanish and Portugese countries they learn about César, and name their kids that, also. In those languages the diphthong has been absorbed into a mere acute accent mark (so far as I can tell, it's a diacritical mark but not actually a diaeresis, or should I write, diaresis...). And the English used to write "Cæsar," but no longer do. In other languages it's Kaiser or Czar (that's a transliteration). Every country has the right to spell their language the way they'd like to. For the English Wikipedia, I think that popular vote among English speakers should win, and that's the American spelling. Leave traditional British spelling for articles about U.K. topics. IUPAC is a bunch of snobs and they don't always go with what's most used in the world of English-speaking chemists, but what's most politically correct and won't offend the Brits. In any case, whether IUPAC "prefer" Caesium or not, they don't forbid or even discourage Cesium, and their heads are not going to blow up if we all use it here. I also refuse to write hæmatology. SBHarris 19:05, 26 March 2008 (UTC)
Neither is your head going to blow up if you would simply add an "a" in front of the "e" to write caesium. Your post doesn't give any reason why WP should change the policies which have done it good for several years now. Physchim62 (talk) 18:25, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

Whether anyone's head will blow up is rather besides the point. The current google scholar score for "cesium": 272,000. The current google scholar score for "caesium". 40,900. The scientific community at large as clearly settled on the "cesium" spelling. Wikipedia makes itself more difficult to use by using spellings that are used by the minority of the world. The consensus here seems to be to use the American spelling.--Cubic Hour (talk) 23:30, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

On scientific articles we should avoid any one POV and the only way to do that is to use the IUPAC preferred spellings. That is the only reliable source we have. Anything else is just one POV. If we want to have any scientific credibility we use international standards for spellings, SI units and so on. The question however has also arisen about the spelling in non-scientific articles and there I would be more flexible, dealing with it on an issue by issue basis. --Bduke (talk) 01:53, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
I'd have to counter that relying on IUPAC is, itself, simply a POV, and no better than than arbitrarily choosing the ACS over the RSC. When there is disagreement between large, respected organizations, picking one over the other can only come down to POV, regardless of whether one is specifically tasked with the subject of the disagreement. My POV is simply that, when you have multiple conflicting bodies, it's better to go with the more widely accepted one. At least when people are attempting to search for something. For things like the article "caesium" vs. the article "cesium," it's obviously irrelevant due to redirects. But if you're trying to search within articles, it becomes more problematic. I believe the discussion should really be based on the merits of the two names, instead of citing IUPAC, the RSC, the ACS, or the IEEE, or whatever.--Cubic Hour (talk) 07:30, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
I just do not follow that argument in any way. IUPAC is the international body. ACS and RSC are national societies, so have a national POV. The body that is charged with resolving differences between usage in different countries is the best source we have. How do you know that the american POV is the most widely accepted? Your Google Scholar results may go back before the IUPAC decision was made. Why are you so opposed to international standards? --Bduke (talk) 08:08, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
Let's not make it personal. I personally, am all in favor of international standards. That's irrelevant though. What I object to here is presenting the IUPAC standard as the accepted standard, since it's not (as evidenced by the literature) and it makes finding (by searching for terms) more difficult for the overwhelming number of people. Those google scholar searches are the same regardless of dates, by the way. Here's caesium and here's cesium, over the past ten years only, which presumably would have given the IUPAC standard (first proposed in '90, right?) time to kick in. But, as can be seen by the ratios, it clearly didn't. Once again, I love standards, but I think it's bad for the average user to enforce "standards" that aren't accepted (especially when the standard is actually in the minority).--Cubic Hour (talk) 11:20, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

Any results based on journal cites are biaised by the fact that American journals insist on American spellings, whereas European journals will accept either. They're also irrelevant, in so far as cesium and aluminum are—quite simply—wrong. They are tributes to the illiteracy of a dictionary complier and of a journal editor (respectively). There are a lot of people who use wrong spellings, but so what, does that mean that Wikipedia should do so as well? Physchim62 (talk) 12:57, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

To suggest that the majority of the world is wrong is —quite simply— wrong. There is no "Academy of English." What is "right" is what is common. English is full of misspelled words from many other languages. They become "right" when they are commonly accepted. "Cesium" is no more misspelled than "Caesar." Is there any compelling argument for using the less common (and harder to search for) spelling, apart from a largely ignored recommendation from IUPAC? If not, I'm strongly in favor of changing this convention.--Cubic Hour (talk) 14:22, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
The reason we have international bodies is precisely to resolve issues like this and produce a consensus. The chemists active on Wikipedia have all been happy to work with the IUPAC recommendations for several years. The spellings were chosen after much serious deliberation by prominent chemists representing the majority of the world, and they have not been overturned. I would trust these decisions more than a Google search, which can after all give some funny results! Walkerma (talk) 14:55, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
I believe that google scholar search makes my point... the misused version (whether or not all those spellings of "phosphorous" are misused) has far fewer hits.--Cubic Hour (talk) 15:14, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
Surely you mean that the misused version—the one with no historical or etymological justification, ie, cesium—has more hits… Physchim62 (talk) 16:57, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
Physchim: Chill. I'm trying to make a valid point about ease of use. It's harder for people to find something that's not spelled the way the majority of the world spells it. Do you have anything to say in regards to that, or is this arrogant "no historical or etymological" response the best response you have?--Cubic Hour (talk) 17:23, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
If your only response is to tell me to "chill", and then to claim that I'm being "arrogant", I really don't see where this discussion is going to get us. As for finding data, you can type "cesium" or "cesium chloride" or a host of other North American spellings into the "search" box and go directly to our articles. Articles usually also include North American spellings in their first lines, and so are easily found using either the MediaWiki search engine or external resources such as Google. Physchim62 (talk) 13:48, 29 March 2008 (UTC)
Check out Plasma electrolytic oxidation, for example. It's a perfect example of this. If you're searching for "aluminum," you won't find it. An analagous example is what got me interested in this problem also. I told an undergraduate student I was helping to go check out the wiki site on a few different semiconductor components (which I knew to be good pages) and, his lack of knowledge of British spellings (being in the Netherlands, and educated in the more common spellings) made him unable to find the article. I've fixed that page already.--Cubic Hour (talk) 16:31, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

I support Walkerma for the reasons he gives. Also, moving away from using IUPAC standards will lead us into very confused waters. We are an international encyclopedia. We should use international standards where they exist so readers can be educated in them. Redirects are used for the common spellings in some parts of the English speaking world. --Bduke (talk) 22:45, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

I would agree, if it were in fact an international standard. If something is unnaccepted by the majority of the scientific literature, that implies to me it's not much of a standard.--Cubic Hour (talk) 16:31, 29 March 2008 (UTC)
It is the IUPAC standard. If you are correct, then IUPAC will change it and come into line with you. I suggest you canvass IUPAC for the change rather than Wikipedia. --Bduke (talk) 22:52, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

(Outdent) Your concept that IUPAC "preferred names" are some kind of "standard" is not in keeping with what IUPAC intended [3]. As they say:

A major new principle is elaborated in these Recommendations. The concept of ‘preferred IUPAC names’ is developed and systematically applied. Up to now, the nomenclature developed and recommended by IUPAC has emphasized the generation of unambiguous names in accord with the historical development of the subject. In 1993, due to the explosion in the circulation of information and the globalization of human activities, it was deemed necessary to have a common language that will prove important in legal situations, with manifestations in patents, export-import regulations, environmental and health and safety information, etc. However, rather than recommend only a single ‘unique name’ for each structure, we have developed rules for assigning ‘preferred IUPAC names’, while continuing to allow alternatives in order to preserve the diversity and adaptability of the nomenclature to daily activities in chemistry and in science in general.

Thus, the existence of preferred IUPAC names does not prevent the use of other names to take into account a specific context or to emphasize structural features common to a series of compounds. Preferred IUPAC names belong to ‘preferred IUPAC nomenclature’ Any name other than a preferred IUPAC name, as long as it is unambiguous and follows the principles of the IUPAC recommendations herein, is acceptable as a ‘general’ IUPAC name, in the context of ‘general’ IUPAC nomenclature.

The emphasis on that last sentence is mine. They are talking about organic compound names, to be sure, but that's as close as they ever come to saying what they mean by their concept of "preferred." Clearly, it's is to be subservient to common usage, since it allows alternatives "to preserve the diversity and adaptability of the nomenclature to daily activities in chemistry and in science in general." Daily activity of chemisty is PRECISELY what we're talking about, when one term is used far more in the literature and the internet than another. It's not supposed to be a straightjacket, so long as there's no ambiguity.

For my part, I'll believe in the sincerity and workability of your belief that IUPAC "preferred names" are really supposed to mean "standards", with no alternative acceptable, when you find me some place where IUPAC ITSELF says this. So far as I can tell, they bend over backwards to say the opposite. So, let's see you pagemove Deuterium and Tritium to the IUPAC-preferred Hydrogen-2 and Hydrogen-3 instead of having the redirects go the other way. See what happens. SBHarris 01:44, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Deuterium and tritium are IUPAC preferred names for these isotopes (rule I-3.5.1, page 38); only the symbols 2H and 3H are recommended, for reasons of alphabetical ordering in formulae, although the symbols D and T may also be used. Physchim62 (talk) 17:17, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
This is interesting. Thanks for contributing it. Where we are talking about different names, particularly in organic chemistry where the preferred names are very complex, I would agree with you. However, for elements we have to decide between two different spellings and I still think the IUPAC preferred spelling should be used with the other being a redirect. However, I admit I may have a POV here. I'm British. We rapidly started teaching "sulfur" rather than "sulphur", just as we rapidly started using kJ rather than kcal. The Americans have been dragging their feet ever since and it is very annoying, particularly where I have published in American journals largely because the vast majority of papers in one of the fields I have worked on has been published in one American journal. Otherwise I try to avoid publishing in American journals because of this. Nevertheless I do not see the Project changing its usage on this. --Bduke (talk) 04:34, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
I hope this doesn't get conflated with US resistance to the metric system, which really is horrid. In our defence, there's alway somebody out there who has a pinapple up the wrong way about something, even when you think you've got it metricized. In medicine, American doctors worked very hard to get blood concentrations in mg/L and so on, and then somebody decided it all had to be in milli or micro or nanomolar. And quick, tell me your blood pressure in preferred SI units, no tor allowed! Basically, what this all comes down to is that you should use the unit system which is most convenient for your job. In chemistry, there's a reason that eV are very convenient units of energy and I hope there's never some attojoule nazi who makes everyone switch. Normalize to use what's natural. You may talk of kJ vs. kcal, but I promise you, if you're doing heat transfer studies in a living animal, using kcal/kg, not kJ/kg, makes everything immediately transparent as the natural units to compare to the heat capacity of water, but using kJ just screws it all up again. The last paper I wrote this way, I put all the figures in with both units (it was for an Elsavier published journal), and then I just ignored the joules. As for spelling, there isn't even a "natural" answer. One should use what most of your audience is most familiar with, as using anything else detracts from the message. If most of the English speaking audience is distracted by caesium (which they are), you should write the other. SBHarris 05:20, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
I first learned physical chemistry from Atkins' physical chemistry book, in kJ/mol. But once I moved into grad school, I found that most people in my field uses kcal/mol, whether they were American or not or the journals were American or not. I had to switch to kcal/mol, and sometimes have the impression that textbook authors like Atkins are too idealistic in jumping into the latest standards recommendation bandwagon when the standard has no use in the real world. Sometimes it is funny to look at old textbooks that used proposed standards that never caught on and barely anyone remembers. --Itub (talk) 09:21, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Sorry to interrupt, but where exactly does IUPAC say that "caesium" is preferred? The closest I remember seeing is a periodic table or a table of atomic weights where they in fact use "caesium" in the table but with a footnote that says "also spelled cesium". That didn't look like a "standard recommendation" to me, but more of an editorial decision. --Itub (talk) 06:49, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

It's in Table I of Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry (the "Red Book"), page 240. Physchim62 (talk) 17:17, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
I don't have the 1990 edition handy (could you quote what it says?), but the 2005 edition (available online) only has a table of element names (Table I), with footnotes footnote stating that cesium and aluminum are also in common use. Something worth noting is that it doesn't say anything about sulphur, as only sulfur is to be found in their book. I would say the situation for S is different from that of Al and Cs: IUPAC clearly uses only one spelling for S, but it accepts that Cs and Al have two spellings in common use. It doesn't deprecate or explicitly recommend either of the spellings. My conclusion is that prescribing caesium and aluminium goes against the general rule at the top of the document that the most common name should be used (if cesium and aluminum are indeed more common), or at least against WP:ENGVAR which is the guideline for dealing with regional spelling variations. This is not to mention that, as this naming conventions page mentions, we already have exceptions for many substances where we prefer the common name to the IUPAC name. --Itub (talk) 09:12, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
The table on p.240 of the 1990 version is essentially the same as that on p.248 of the 2005 version, but without the notes for caesium or aluminium. Note that the IUPAC table places "caesium" before calcium, and not "cesium" after cerium in it's "list of IUPAC-approved names in alphabetical order". As for WP:ENGVAR, aluminium, caesium and sulfur have always been at those names: the only distinction that these guidelines make from WP:ENGVAR is to standardise the spelling of the elements throughout chemistry articles (and not beyond). This wasn't a principle that these guidelines invented, it was merely codified here. If we didn't make this distinction, we would have conflicting spellings for at least six elements, and conflicting symbols for at least two more. The decision was not made by any of the current participants in this discussion. It is based on a clear IUPAC recommendation, which itself is based (at least in the three cases discussed here) on clear historical and etymological principles. There are those who don't like it, obviously, but there are plenty of people who object to Wikipedia's spelling sulfur with an "f" rather than a "ph"… In all of these cases, we go with the IUPAC-approved spellings. Physchim62 (talk) 11:17, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
First, regarding your statement, that "The decision was not made by any of the current participants in this discussion," this is not actually relevant. Consensus can change, and getting there first doesn't give you any ownership of the policy. See the wikipedia policy on Wikipedia:Consensus for more explanation. Before I comment on the substance of your point, I need to get ahold of the reference you're citing. Our lab's copy appears to have disappeared momentarily.--Cubic Hour (talk) 11:27, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that policies can't be changed, although (obviously) I don't think that this guideline should be. "Getting there first" actually does have some sense in the context of the other guidelines on the use of different forms of English. As for the reference, the IUPAC recommendations 2005 can be found online here, and the alphabetical list of elements is on page 248 of that edition (page 240 of the 1990 recommendations). My quote above comes from the "Elements" chapter; I shall try to remember to post the page number, unless someone else finds it first. I will update the refs in the guidelines once I've finished teaching this afternoon! Physchim62 (talk) 13:36, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Regarding ENGVAR, I don't mean that the articles about these two elements should be renamed (past discussion at the aluminium page is entertaining, though). I only suggest that we should follow the ENGVAR guideline for other articles. For example, if someone creates a new article on cesium phosphate, there is no justification for renaming it to caesium phosphate IMO. Or whenever someone mentions cesium in the context of atomic clocks, which I think is what started this new round of debate. --Itub (talk) 13:46, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
I have been involved with the Chemicals WikiProject since 2004, and we even before that time a consensus had been reached to use the IUPAC names for these elements, and that's why these three even made it into Manual of Style discussions very early. The reason was that we wanted to standardize on a set of spellings that would avoid endless discussions of this sort, which can eat up a lot of time. The people writing the chemistry articles have been happy to work with that consensus, and I would hate to see such a well established consensus destroyed. IUPAC names were chosen as the initial default, and this was codified even in quite early versions of the main MOS. Sure, Google searches may show more cesium than caesium, but that we have normally based our naming policy on more than a simple Google search. If we didn't, we'd switch nearly all of our articles over to the American form. The example above of "Hydrogen-2" is a perfect one - it is clear that everyone calls it deuterium, so that's what we use on WP. With caesium, most of the geographical world calls it caesium, most of the Google scholar world calls it cesium, so things are much more unclear, and that's where a IUPAC guideline becomes a godsend. Of course, there will be exceptions to the IUPAC rules for articles outside chemistry such as this one, and I personally have little objection to the atomic clock article using the US spelling, but within chemistry we need to try and be consistent. Walkerma (talk) 15:47, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
My main point of disagreement is that I'm not yet convinced that caesium is a "IUPAC standard". I see it as just another regional spelling variation. Or are we supposed to always say "colour indicator" and never "color indicator" because that is the way it was spelled in the IUPAC gold/orange book?[4] WP:ENGVAR solves the problem well enough IMO. --Itub (talk) 15:55, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

[reset tabs] I'm sorry if you can't accept that it [aluminium/caesium/sulfur + niobium/lutetium/protactinium, just to name the pre-uraniums] is a IUPAC standard, despite the references that I (and you youself) have supplied. What would you suggest we do with Category:Caesium compounds if we apply the general guidelines to such spellings? What should we do when someone creates praseodymium sulphate? Physchim62 (talk) 16:51, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

As I've said, I think the case with sulfur may be different, because it is the only spelling found in the IUPAC book. As for the caesium category, I don't really mind. We have more than one spelling of flavor in Category:Flavors and the world hasn't come to an end. --Itub (talk) 17:05, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Itub. I read through the IUPAC citation, and it's definitely not a "standard." They simply chose one spelling to use as an editorial decision, instead of some cumbersome combined "caesium/cesium" usage. I concur that ENGVAR should simply be applied here. I'm not saying I favor cesium or aluminum over the other spelling, simply that neither one should not be dogmatically preferred/removed any more than a reference to a strangely "coloured" reaction product should be automatically edited into a strangely "colored" product.--Cubic Hour (talk) 17:17, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
I can't see how this proposal would help anyone. Most articles would remain at their current spellings, but a few articles would change spelling for no apparent reason (other than the fact that they were originally written with North American spellings, or British spellings in the case of "sulphur"). Would that really make life easier for our users? Would they actually be able to find information more quickly? Physchim62 (talk) 15:40, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I fully support both Physchim62 and Walkerma. I would also suggest that the reason why only one spelling for "sulfur" is used is that the British chemical community rapidly accepted the IUPAC recommendation in spite of the completely general use of "sulphur" in the UK, while the American chemical community has never shown any willingness to accept recommendations for British spelling. --Bduke (talk) 22:31, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I think what you say about sulfur is true. But we are not here to "fix" the indiscretions of the Americans. --Itub (talk) 06:07, 3 April 2008 (UTC)
No, but we are not here to give in to "the indiscretions of the Americans" either, so we use the IUPAC preferred spelling. --Bduke (talk) 06:13, 3 April 2008 (UTC)
Again though, it's not (as far as I can tell) an IUPAC standard. They just tend towards using one or the other in their publications. There is an important difference. If it's just an editorial decision on IUPAC's part, and not a real standard, ENGVAR should apply. -- And, as a separate note: let's bury the anti-American bias. It's just petty. I'm sorry if they changed your spellings, but life goes on, eh?--Cubic Hour (talk) 09:40, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

I'm not going to comment about the spelling again since we've already made our points multiple times without convincing anyone. But since so many people here care about cesium, perhaps someone will be interested in the discussion about the existence of Cs3+. Talking about the chemistry rather than the spelling may be a refreshing change. See Talk:Caesium/archive1#Cesium.28III.29. --Itub (talk) 15:59, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

I've been following the debate here, and I understand why Caesium is used in the article, although I disagree with the reasoning for its use. Clearly the few holdouts in favor of the odd and impractical "caesium" prefer the term because it is the IUPAC convention, although even this is not exactly clear. "Cesium," in addition to being more readable, is more popular in the scientific community in general, being accepted and indeed preferred by many major standards-governing bodies the world around ("caesium" is clearly a holdout and will fortunately go the way of "sulphur"), and is widely accepted by (and indeed used by members of) the IUPAC, the major dissenting body being the Royal Society of Chemistry (which one might expect). I am not usually one to argue based on Google hits, but in this case the overwhelming majority of "cesium" within the international scientific community should indeed be taken as an indicator of the best spelling. I'm completely fine with "aluminium" (very common internationally), for what it's worth. It just seems that there is a single argument here in favor of "Caesium," and the argument is not well made. "Cesium" has become accepted by the IUPAC for a very obvious reason: it is the most common and most widely accepted scientific spelling of the element. I completely agree with Itub's point that "we are not here to 'fix' the indiscretions of the Americans," (and "cesium" is not one such indiscretion) which really does seem to be the argument of the "Caesium" proponents, despite the international use of "Cesium" (even around WP). Spelling the element "Cesium" would not defy IUPAC standards in any real sense, especially since they've caved to popular use. Additionally, I would like to make the point that the so-called American "indiscretions" need not be so vehemently opposed; they are inescapable and most likely beneficial aspects of the evolution of language, since difficult spellings are more likely to change for the mere sake of simplicity (which is a very noble goal when no information is lost, as in this case). English is a phonetic mess to begin with; I tend to find American spellings simpler in most cases (e.g. "color" has more phonetic simplicity than "colour"). Reading "Caesium" throughout the article gives the sensation that one is reading the text of a Latin Mass, not an encyclopedic entry on a chemical element. Additionally, the formal debate on this topic ([5]) makes it clear from the get-go that the "Caesium" proponents consider American spellings to be a bastardization of a once noble language, which is clearly a subjective opinion and one not meriting the implicit backing of WP. Eccomi 20:10, 29 November 2010 (UTC).

"Majority of English speakers clearly recognize Cesium better than Caesium" - possibly, but as a geochemist for 45 years I spell it caesium, as does my wife (an organometallic researcher) and people I work with from a number of English-speaking countries (Britain, South Africa, Australia) as well as English journals (eg Nature) and European journals in English. I had always thought cesium was an American peculiarity (that they have every right to use, as we do with our variety)- in fact when I read this I thought "that's right, I have also seen it spelled cesium" (so it is not clearly recognised by me, but probably mainly by Americans). There seems to be confusion here between those discussing the original topic (what Wikipedia should do) and those who think that either the Americans or the Brits are demented because of their spelling. The argument that Wikipedia is American and should use American spelling, as stated above, is invalid - the Wikipedia Manual of Style says "English Wikipedia prefers no major national variety of the language over any other" and simply requires consistency throughput an article. It is hardly the only element that has a different spelling, or even a totally different name in different countries (tungsten, wolfram), and unlike "sulphur", originally spelled "sulfur" (the official IUPAC recommendation) and not an American change, caesium is not a later change, cesium is. It comes from a word spelled "cae...." meaning blue sky and has nothing to do with the names of people like Caesar and the fact that personal names have been modified in different countries, so a change dissociates it from its source and reason for naming (its blue flame colour). There are other factors to consider such as the name of an element and its spelling usually being defined by the discoverer (not American in this case - and caesium). It is not a topic that I feel strongly about, and I think there is logic in having consistency in science (especially in the electronic age), and I think if there is consensus between international scientific organisations, that decision should be accepted by Wikipedia and everyone else (I would happily change) - however I am not aware that IUPAC has made any recommendation as has been stated above, and my understanding is that they accept both alternative spellings. So I will probably simply accept the requirements of any journal that I am writing for until then (which includes Wikipedia where its style manual shows there is no justification for others to change the original spelling used in an article). — Preceding unsigned comment added by Rockierode (talkcontribs) 12:28, 24 December 2016 (UTC)

Name reactions[edit]

Working though the RSC ontology, I can see the need for some guidelines about the naming of these articles. I propose the following:

The titles of articles about name reactions should generally conform to widely recognised secondary sources such as the RSC Name Reaction Ontology. However, some minor modifications may be necessary to ensure consistency with other areas of Wikipedia.

  • When two or more surnames appear in the name of a reaction, they are separated by an en dash and not by a hyphen (WP:DASH).
Diels–Alder reaction not Diels-Alder reaction
  • The name appearing in the title of an article about a reaction should be spelled the same way as in the biographical article.
Ramberg–Bäcklund reaction not Ramberg–Backlund reaction nor Ramberg–Baecklund reaction
  • The prefix "aza-" (and similar) is treated as a noun, and separated from surnames with an en dash. This avoids a confusion with double-barrelled names.
Aza–Wittig reaction not Aza-Wittig reaction nor Aza Wittig reaction
Oxy–Cope rearrangement not Oxy-Cope rearrangement nor Oxy Cope rearrangement
  • The prefix "retro" is treated as an adjective, and separated from surnames with a space. This avoids an unsightly mixing of hyphens and en dashes.
Retro Diels–Alder reaction not Retro-Diels–Alder reaction nor Retro–Diels–Alder reaction
  • Words ending in -isation/-ization, such as "cyclisation" may be spelled either way: the choice for any given article is determined by the normal guidelines at WP:ENGVAR. Note that the RSC ontology uses the "-isation" form throughout.
  • The choice of description of a reaction as "reaction", "process", "condensation", "rearrangement" etc is made by reference to widely recognised secondary sources. In case of disagreement, the most commonly used description is chosen. If the most commonly used description is unclear, the first acceptible description used for the article title is retained.

In all cases, it is important to create redirects from other possible names and spellings, especially when these are used in reliable sources.

Physchim62 (talk) 15:05, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

Greek letters - characters or spelled out?[edit]

Greek letters are spelled out, or displayed as characters. It seems rather messy - do we want to prefer either? It seems that titles do not support such characters, if I am not mistaken. --Rifleman 82 (talk) 18:28, 25 June 2009 (UTC)

Titles can support such characters – 新加坡 is a valid article title, for example, although it redirects. Do we want to have a preference? Physchim62 (talk) 18:45, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
Greek letters are certainly possible, although I haven't seen them used much in practice for titles of chemical articles. I've created many redirects using Greek letters, however. --Itub (talk) 23:51, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

Use in the articles[edit]

"These international standard spellings should be used in all chemistry-related articles on English Wikipedia, even if they conflict with the other national spelling varieties used in the article."

This has nothing to do with Naming conventions because naming conventions do not dictate the content of pages. This is a WP:MOS issue. -- PBS (talk) 12:39, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Prefixes in titles[edit]

The guideline states, "For technical reasons, it is not recommended to use non-numerical prefixes in article titles", but I am not aware of any technical issues relating to the use of non-numerical prefixes. Certainly there are many articles that violate this guideline. It appears to be outdated and I suggest removing it. Any objections? -- Ed (Edgar181) 19:24, 2 May 2011 (UTC)

I have now updated this section accordingly. -- Ed (Edgar181) 20:13, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
I wonder about the other part. Do we really want Il-1R–Associated kinase 4 deficiency which was recently moved on account of this? I do sometimes see this, but it seems weird to me. Most sources capitalize the L in "IL" instead of "Il". Dicklyon (talk) 00:21, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't think this guideline applies to that article because "Il-1R" isn't a chemical nomenclature prefix, but rather an abbreviation of "interleukin-1 receptor". (I realize this is a very old comment I'm replying to, but doing so anyway...) -- Ed (Edgar181) 18:09, 5 June 2013 (UTC)

RFC – WP title decision practice[edit]

Over the past several months there has been contentious debate over aspects of WP:Article Titles policy. That contentiousness has led to efforts to improve the overall effectiveness of the policy and associated processes. An RFC entitled: Wikipedia talk:Article titles/RFC-Article title decision practice has been initiated to assess the communities’ understanding of our title decision making policy. As a project that has created or influenced subject specific naming conventions, participants in this project are encouraged to review and participate in the RFC.--Mike Cline (talk) 19:06, 16 February 2012 (UTC)


I stumbled over the fact that 2C–H used an endash in its name while the rest of the 2C family, as well as all of the other related organics in the CSA schedules, and everything else I could find, used hyphens. I started a discussion on the talk page at Talk:2C–H#Page_move?, but we could use some more input please. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 18:46, 13 September 2013 (UTC)

But it's a chemical bond, isn't it? The Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Terms uses en dashes throughout for bonds. Other authorities insist on this too. And I can't see where this page mandates a hyphen. Tony (talk) 06:26, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
Maybe it's not a chemical bond ... Tony (talk) 07:16, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Definitely not a chemical bond. VQuakr (talk) 18:17, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
No, it's not a bond. It should be treated as a hyphen. --John (talk) 21:14, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Element Names revisited[edit]

I believe we need to re-visit the policy stated in WP:ALUM, where it states that in chemistry-related articles the element names should be changed to a specific spelling. That policy is being used as an excuse to defy WP:ENGVAR, MOS:TIES and WP:UCN, see for example the discussion in Talk:Castle Bravo#WP:TIES_vs_WP:ALUM. The original documents on the subject use the american spelling, the IUPAC allows both spellings, and common usage leans away from the policy stated - Aluminum and Cesium are more common than Aluminium and Caesium. And I note that while typing these in, my browser has flagged the two latter spellings as misspelled.

I realize this got argued to death in 2008, but it appears the resulting policy is producing absurd results, so needs to be revisited. Perhaps to be more specific about what kind of articles need revision? Tarl.Neustaedter (talk) 10:23, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

I don't agree this is "being used as an excuse"; the policy is designed to prevent silly edit wars like the one you have been indulging in, and 99% of the time it works. There are more important things to worry about, honestly. We use IUPAC spellings and no capitals for elements in chemistry-related articles. --John (talk) 12:12, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't want to make this personal, but you are defining my reverting you *once* as "indulging in an edit war", and you have since stated there is no point in discussing this with me. Can we hear someone else? Tarl.Neustaedter (talk) 13:19, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
I partially apologise for tarring you with the same brush as User:Senor Cuete who has been the worst offender in this silly business. Here in Scotland we have a saying that "If you fly with the crows you can get shot with the crows" and numerous ArbCom decisions have endorsed this principle as it applies in Wikipedia. I'm afraid you made it personal when you used the language "being used as an excuse" which departs from our default assumptions about editors. I think there is little point in discussing the specific article with you if you are unable to see that an article with a detailed discussion of the chemistry of various fission products is a "chemistry-related" article. Nevertheless you cannot prohibit me from taking part in this discussion, given that I am a frequent contributor to chemistry topics and have been for 7 years. I strongly oppose any change in the long-standing policy for reasons that your behaviour and that of Senor Cuete make obvious. Softening the policy will open the door for nationalistic edit-warriors to change the long-standing spelling on Chemistry articles. No thanks; we have better things to do with our precious time. --John (talk) 17:48, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
I am not optimistic about achieving a consensus to change this without the traditional massive RfC or conversation at village pump/policy, but for what it's worth I think we should follow IUPAC nomenclature in all articles. I also am thoroughly disgusted by how quickly the tone of the discussion has devolved into petty insults. VQuakr (talk) 18:15, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
The cited discussion is very interesting and anyone interested in this discussion should read it. There is no international standard for the spelling of the words aluminum, cesium or sulphur. Even WP:ALUM states that: "Traditionally, the names of three elements have been spelled differently in U.S. and UK English.", admitting that the spellings "Aluminium", "caesium" and "sulfur" are British english. My Oxford dictionary spells them using American english but notes that in Britain they are spelled as required byWP:ALUM. The most esoteric of these is "Aluminium". Nobody outside of the U.K. has ever heard of it. Since the mis-guided standard used in WP:ALUM can conflict with other Wikipedia standards, notably WP:ENGVAR and WP:TIES as it does in Castle bravo, it should be eliminated.
Hello, whoever wrote this! Your statement that "nobody outside the UK has ever heard of it" is incorrect: not only is it standard in most non-American countries, but indeed was originally standard in the US as well. The order of precedence for guidelines is fairly clear that when ENGVAR (of which TIES is a subsection) is in conflict with ALUM, ALUM prevails as an international standard. Nikkimaria (talk) 00:29, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
As noted in the discussions above the IUPAC does NOT require British English spellings for these (contrary to what it says in WP:ALUM) so I wonder what international standard you are referring to. Also maybe you could provide a link to precedence for guidelines to which you refer.
IUPAC does prefer the -ium spelling, which is the standard to which I am referring. As to precedence, perhaps it would be helpful for you to read the guideline we are currently discussing? And please don't forget to sign your posts; it's very confusing to keep track of who said what otherwise. Nikkimaria (talk) 03:02, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Un-named elements naming discussion[edit]

I want to note that WP:ELEMENTS there is a discussion going on on the naming and symbolizing of elements with no IUPAC name (now generally named like ununtrium). (An earlier part off the discussion is in archive, see the hatnote) -DePiep (talk) 09:28, 2 November 2013 (UTC)


In section Exceptions there is this line:

  • phosphine not phosphane (and for substituted phosphines, arsine and stibine)

I cannot discern whether the three additions (phosphines, ...) are or are not acceptable. The writing is ambiguous. Please can someone rephrase that? -DePiep (talk) 20:02, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

Phosphine, arsine, stibine, and bismuthine are the more common names, although IUPAC would suggest phosphane, arsane, stibane, and bismuthane. I'll make this clearer. Double sharp (talk) 02:42, 31 August 2016 (UTC)

Sources on capitalization[edit]

Does anyone has any source which describes and clarifies capitalization of chemical names, which start with sec-, tert-, ortho-, meta-, para-, alpha-, beta-, D-, L-, (+)-, (-)-, (R)-, (S)- and the numerical prefixes? I need it very much for ru-wiki discussion. — Maksim Fomich (talk) 19:45, 1 December 2014 (UTC)