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The basic idea is that atoms of different elements have different electronegativities and exert pulls of differing strengths on the electrons. In a bond, the less electronegative atom will have a partial positive charge while the other atom will be slightly negative. If two different elements are bonded, it's polar and you can figure out the direction of the dipoles using electronegativities. Draw the Lewis structure and determine the polarity of the bonds around the central atom (also check for lone pairs on the central atom). If all the bonds are identical and there is no lone pair on the central atom, then it's non-polar. If not, next consider the molecular geometry. If the molecule is symmetrical and the dipoles are equal, then the dipoles will cancel and it will be non-polar. Otherwise, it's polar.
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