A computational analysis of phenol and p-nitrophenol has been carried out with the objective of determining the extent to which the conjugation between the -OH group and the aromatic ring is affected by a 90° rotation of the former. The ab initio SCF-MO GAUSSIAN 82 procedure was used to compute optimized geometries, electronic densities and electrostatic potentials. The effect of rotation upon the structures and distributions of π electronic charge are rather small. However, the electrostatic potential reveals that as a consequence of rotation around the COH bond, there should be an overall preference for the ortho positions as the initial sites for electrophilic attack. The -NO2 group deactivates the aromatic ring toward electrophiles and increases the positive character of the hydroxyl hydrogen. © 1988.