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When the central atom has a lone pair the molecule will be polar. In general if we look at the dipoles of two atoms, they may cancel, however, if a lone pair is present then the atoms will not have the same equal and opposite dipoles. Therefore, the lone pair will interfere and the dipoles will change, which will not allow it to cancel. Thus, it will be polar. To determine polarity we should still look at the the bonded atoms. Technically, if there is a lone pair then the molecule will be polar, so yes maybe that is a shortcut?
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