Abstract The key components of a completely theoretical parametrization of the essential-structural-elements molecular orbital (ESE MO) formalism using Slater-type AO basis in the LCAO SCF procedure are discussed. Special attention is paid to the problem of separability into core and valence parts of the total molecular wavefunction, including the case where valence functions strongly overlap neighbouring core orbitals. The use of Huzinaga and Cantu effective hamiltonian is proposed. The parametrization is tested in relation to the SO 2 molecules. The role of sulphur 3d functions in bonding as predicted by the present ESE MO calculations and ab initio calculations are compared. The present parametrization appears to adequately handle both the core/valence separation, and the diffuse higher valence sulphur 3d functions in this system.