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Reading the Periodic Table

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Once again, here is a link to view a full-size periodic table: To see the periodic table, click here. Once the window appears, roll your mouse over the elements to see their specific information. You can also access the periodic table by going into the SparkNotes reference section that resides at the top of every SparkNotes page.

General Structure of the Periodic Table

As stated last section, the periodic table organizes the elements according to general patterns of similarity. Below is a very small image of the periodic table. It is basically unreadable in terms of specific information, but it allows us to easily look at the periodic tables structure general trends.

Figure %: A very small periodic table

The vertical columns of the periodic table (marked by yellow stripes in the figure) are called groups. The horizontal rows are called periods. There are 18 groups and 7 periods. In discussing the periodic table from here on out we will use the terms group and period. Down a group means moving from top to bottom; across a period means moving from left to right.

Reading the Periodic Table: Carbon

To describe the information contained within each individual box we will use a specific example: carbon.

Figure %: Description of Carbon on the Periodic Table

Element Name

The purpose of the element name is obvious. However, many Periodic Tables do not include element names. For those situations you must memorize the symbols that accord to each element name.

Element Symbol

Each element has a specific one or two letter symbol that is used interchangeably with its name. These should be memorized. Most of the time, symbols quite clearly accord to the name of the element they represent, as C accords to carbon. Occasional, however, an element's name and symbol have little relation. For example, the symbol for mercury is Hg.

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