This chapter offers a general background for students embarking in glycoscience to grasp an essential component of the field, i.e. the alphabet of the building blocks that constitute the many naturally occurring glycans and complex carbohydrates. There is a need to conform to the recommendations of nomenclatures of carbohydrates whilst the constraints required by the developing field of glycobiology in terms of visualization and encoding. The present chapter offers a unified presentation of the nomenclature and symbols that form part of the “language” used to communicate more effectively. It covers about 120 monosaccharides which have been identified as the building blocks of the vast majority of glycans. As a picture speaks a thousand words, it is hoped that this language could be understood as quickly and effectively as possible and used by those working in bioinformatics/database compilation and any one working with oligo, polysaccharides and complex carbohydrates.
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