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What do arrows in organic chemistry mean?

It is very important to know how to draw arrows right for your organic chemistry class. Arrows are the backbone of mechanisms and show us exactly how reactions happen. The tail of an arrow represents where electrons are coming from. Therefore, we must always draw an arrow from something that has electrons. In most cases, it is an element with a lone pair of electrons or a double bond. Never draw an arrow from Hydrogen (many students often make this mistake). Hydrogen does not have any electrons to give.

The head of an arrow represents where electrons are going. For example an arrow from oxygen to hydrogen represents that the bond will form between oxygen and hydrogen. An arrow from double bond to hydrogen means that electrons in one of the bonds will be used to form a new bond between carbon and hydrogen.

Knowing how to draw arrows is essential to your success in organic chemistry class. So start practicing!

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