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Formal charge allows us to find the most stable Lewis structure of a compound because we can draw many valid structures that match the total number of valence electrons, but we want the most STABLE. The most stable structure will have majority of its formal charges equal to 0. When it is an ionic compound, it will need formal charges to reflect that. The equation to find the formal charge of each atom in the compound is: [# valence electrons on neutral atom] – [(# lone electron pairs) + (½ # bonding electrons)].
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