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you would need to know how many total electrons there are in the atom, what is the last subshell being used, and how many electrons can that subshell hold. Then in the last subshell, you put one arrow in each of the orbitals and then come back around to fill them. for example, if it was oxygen, there would be 8 e-.Oxygen's electron configuration would be 1s^2 2s^2 2p^4 the last subshell being used would be p and p has 3 orbitals. and there are 4 electrons. so you would put one electron in each orbital and then go back and put the last electron in the first orbital, leaving 2 unpaired electrons.
You need to follow the Pauley exclusion principle and hund's rule. Electrons must fill all the orbitals in a sub shell once before pairing up with an electron the orbitals. Knowing this rule will help you to determine how many electrons are unpaired.
An easy way to go about writing electron configurations is to draw a corresponding amount of lines for each subshell and fill them with arrows. Since you have to fill one level before the next, this is a systematic way to show you what the electron level is. The photo should help explain what I am trying to describe a little more clearly.
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