In the case of a name of a person, the first letter is written in capital letters.

  • Should the first letter of name of a chemical compound or element be written in capital letters?

2 Answers 2


The names of chemical compounds and elements should be capitalized if they appear at the beginning of a sentence or in a title - that is, they are treated just like any other common noun.

For example, a title:

Why I Don't Like Zinc

or a sentence:

Boron is my favorite element.

Within a sentence:

We used boron and zinc in the experiment.

Vinegar contains acetic acid.

The symbols for chemical elements are always capitalized, no matter what:

We combined $\ce{As}$ and $\ce{W}$ to make a new alloy.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ In the 1979 and 1993 IUPAC recommendations, example names were actually written with a capital initial letter. This was not necessarily wrong since most examples started on a new line. However, this practice has been abandoned in the 2013 recommendations in order to ensure that names of organic compounds are not considered as proper nouns. $\endgroup$
    – user7951
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ Capitalising (some) words in a title is a matter of taste, not orthography. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 22:28
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Karl That's like saying "Whether it's 'colour' or 'color' is a matter of taste, not spelling." Capitalization is literally orthography: the way things are written down. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 22, 2017 at 23:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ToddMinehardt i.e. glucosamine (N-acetyl)-6-sulfatase $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "N" is an element symbol, always uppercase. $\endgroup$
    – Karl
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:40

One addition to Todd's correct answer is that of trade names. The canonical example of Teflon being capitalized, the name being property of DuPont. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polytetrafluoroethylene

Although Teflon is not the chemical name, the distinction is added to avoid possible confusion.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ And complicated cases, such as acetylsalicylic acid, which is "Aspirin" in countries such as Canada, where Beyer holds a trademark, and "aspirin" in countries such as the US and UK, where the trademark lapsed and it's now considered to be a nonsystematic name. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 12:21

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