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8.1: Electron Dot Diagrams

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  • Diagrams contain a lot of useful information in a compact format. Diagrams of electrons provide information on the location of specific electrons. We can mark these electrons and indicate what happens to them when an element reacts.

    Electron Dot Diagrams

    Recall that the valence electrons of an atom are the electrons located in the highest occupied principal energy level. Valence electrons are primarily responsible for the chemical properties of elements. The number of valence electrons can be easily determined from the electron configuration. Several examples from the second period elements are shown in the table below.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\)
    Element Electron Configuration Number of Valence Electrons
    lithium \(1s^2 \: 2s^1\) 1
    beryllium \(1s^2 \: 2s^2\) 2
    nitrogen \(1s^2 \: 2s^2 \: 2p^3\) 5
    neon \(1s^2 \: 2s^2 \: 2p^6\) 8

    In each case, valence electrons are those in the second principal energy level. As one proceeds left to right across a period, the number of valence electrons increases by one. In the \(s\) block, Group 1 elements have one valence electron, while Group 2 elements have two valence electrons. In the \(p\) block, the number of valence electrons is equal to the group number minus ten. Group 13 has three valence electrons, Group 14 has four, and so on...up through Group 18 with eight. The eight valence electrons, a full outer \(s\) and \(p\) sublevel, give the noble gases their special stability.

    When examining chemical bonding, it is necessary to keep track of the valence electrons of each atom. Electron dot diagrams are diagrams in which the valence electrons of an atom are shown as dots distributed around the element's symbol. A beryllium atom, with two valence electrons, has the electron dot diagram below:

    \[\cdot \ce{Be} \cdot\]

    Since electrons repel each other, the dots for a given atom are distributed evenly around the symbol before they are paired. The table below shows the electron dot diagrams for the entire second period.

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Electron Dot Diagrams for the Second Period Elements
    Group Number Electron Dot Diagram
    1 \(\ce{Li} \cdot\)
    2 \(\cdot \ce{Be} \cdot\)
    13 \(\cdot \overset{\cdot}{\ce{B}} \cdot\)
    14 \(\cdot \underset{\cdot}{\overset{\cdot}{\ce{C}}} \cdot\)
    15 \(\cdot \underset{\cdot}{\overset{\cdot}{\ce{N}}} :\)
    16 \(: \underset{\cdot}{\overset{\cdot}{\ce{O}}} :\)
    17 \(: \underset{\cdot}{\overset{\cdot \cdot}{\ce{F}}} :\)
    18 \(: \underset{\cdot \cdot}{\overset{\cdot \cdot}{\ce{Ne}}} :\)

    Electron dot diagrams would be the same for each element in the representative element groups. Most transition elements have two valence electrons, though some that have unusual electron configurations have only one.


    • Electron dot diagrams show the valence electrons for an atom.
    • The dot diagrams are the same for each element in the representative element groups.

    Contributors and Attributions

    • CK-12 Foundation by Sharon Bewick, Richard Parsons, Therese Forsythe, Shonna Robinson, and Jean Dupon.

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