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Word Equations

The first of the three types of equations are word equations. (These examples are also shown in ex. 1 and 2. in your workbook.) The first example deals with water being electrolyzed and becoming hydrogen and oxygen. One way of representing that reaction is to use the word equation, "water rtarrow.gif (850 bytes) hydrogen + oxygen," which is read as "water becomes hydrogen and oxygen."

We use an arrow to show which way the reaction is going. The arrow is usually read as "becomes" or "yields." The "+" sign is read as "and." The water is changing into hydrogen and oxygen. Sometimes you will see an equal sign instead of an arrow. I prefer arrows, usually, because that emphasizes that a reaction is proceeding in a particular direction. Some people like to use equal signs to emphasize the idea that this is a chemical equation and that matter is conserved. The mass of water that reacts is equal to the mass of hydrogen and oxygen that is formed. So whichever you see is simply a matter of emphasis.

This second example shows the word equation for magnesium reacting with oxygen to become magnesium oxide: "magnesium + oxygen rtarrow.gif (850 bytes) magnesium oxide." Word equations are simply a shorthand way of writing down what chemicals were the reactants and products in the chemical reaction.

 

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Clackamas Community College
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