It is shown that chlorosulphonation is a major aid to the electron microscopy of polyethylene for various samples which had mostly been crystallized at high pressures and included at least a proportion of the so-called chain-extended form. It is confirmed that sheets of excess electron density are produced at lamellar surfaces, but also including lateral surfaces. This is due primarily to the incorporation of chlorine and sulphur rather than to added uranium. The time to achieve an overall reaction varies sensitively with morphology, decreasing as the number of diffusion channels increases. Crystallinity is gradually lost, but sufficient crystals remain when a sample has become uniform, and in their initial orientations, for diffraction studies to be possible. The technique has been used to demonstrate that, during melt crystallization, the thickness of one lamella changes in response to altered growth conditions. This is direct confirmation that lamellar thickness is determined by secondary nucleation at the growth front. The tapered profile of a growing lamella previously observed in thick crystals of various polymers has been observed for chain-folded polyethylene lamellae, providing further evidence that this is a general feature of melt growth. © 1977 Chapman and Hall Ltd.