Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English

Writing Cause or Effect Essays

Cause EffectThis page contains a few "rules" for writing organized cause or effect effect essays. The last paragraph on this page links out to a "brainstorming" page, a page about air pollution, both its causes and its effects. This "rules" page refers to organization; the link out at the bottom refers to organization of specific content. Both pages together (this one first) can lead to some excellent cause or effect essays.

A Cause or Effect Essay is an essay in which you write about the causes of something or the effects of something. When writing on one's own outside a school setting, writing a cause or effect essay is almost always to advance a personal position. Essays explaining the causes of home burglaries or the effects of a good diet or a good exercise program can often advance a personal point of view, which is, of course, an excellent reason for writing.

Note that it is almost impossible to find good, short essays that discuss both causes and effects because (1) short essays of 350-400 words do not provide enough space to discuss both causes and effects adequately, and (2) organization in a discussion of both causes and effects almost always breaks down. So for now, let us discuss the organization of a relatively short cause or effect essay, an essay of about 350-400 words.

Organization of a Cause or Effect Essay

A Cause or Effect essay should always contain at least THREE PARTS. The three parts are (1) Introduction, (2) Body, and (3) Conclusion. We will look at each part and its requirements in order. Keep in mind that this description is for your first Cause or Effect essay which will be about 350 to 400 words.

To summarize briefly in five lines, your five-paragraph essay should look like this:

  1. Paragraph One: Get the reader's attention, introduce your topic and the three main points.
  2. Paragraph Two: Write about the first main point and add support.
  3. Paragraph Three: Write about the second main point and add support.
  4. Paragraph Four: Write about the third main point and add support.
  5. Paragraph Five: Summarize the entire essay and leave your reader with a good impression.

If you accomplish these things all in order, you will almost certainly know that your essay and your ideas will make a good impression on the reader.

Part One: Introduction

Part one is the introduction which always includes two main functions. The introduction should (1) get the reader's attention and (2) tell the reader what the essay is about. Telling the reader what the essay is going to be about is also called "Stating your Organization." If your introduction is good, it will not only help your reader anticipate what your essay is about, but it will also help you organize the main points in your own mind, possibly even before sitting down and putting thoughts to paper.

Part Two: Body

Part two is the body which for short essays should contain three paragraphs or three causes or three effects. The order in which you write about the causes or the effects of something is always up to the writer. Some writers like to put the most important cause or effect first to help grab the reader's attention from the beginning. Others like to save the most important cause or effect until last to leave a powerful, longer lasting impression upon the reader. Whatever order you choose for your causes or effects, you should always have a rationale, at least in your own mind, for the order in which you present your ideas. Even before starting to write, try to structure the three main causes or the three main effects exactly in your own mind. If it is possible to do that, when you sit down to write, the most important parts will already be organized in your own mind. Almost certainly, you will use emphasis transitions like "remember," "keep in mind," and "the best thing," and there are many of them in this Transitions and Connectors document (will open in new window), which you should print and refer to often.

Part Three: Conclusion

Part three is the conclusion which like the introduction contains two parts. The conclusion should (1) summarize for your reader the main points of your essay and (2) leave the reader with a good impression. Try to make your points clear and crisp, for if your reader can walk away from your essay remembering the three main points, you will have accomplished a lot. So make sure your summary makes sense.

Additional Points to Remember when Writing a Cause or Effect Essay

1. State your organization. In all compositions for an academic audience, you should state your organization. Stating your organization means that you should (1) tell your audience what you are going to tell them, (2) then tell them, and (3) then tell them what you told them.

2. List all of the causes or all of the effects, not necessarily in your essay, but in your own brainstorming session before you begin to write your essay. On a piece of paper before beginning to write your essay, list as many causes or effects you can think of. Using the issue of air pollution, for example, list all the causes of air pollution on one part of the paper, and on the other part, list all the effects of air pollution. (The link to the brainstorming sessions about air pollution is below.)

3. Support all causes or effects with supporting details. State your point clearly at the beginning of a paragraph, and then provide support to help your reader understand how or why it is true.

4. Have a rationale for the order in which you present your information. We discussed that point previously on this page. Experiment! Write at least ten drafts before deciding on the best, final draft, and develop your own rationale for the order in which you present your information.

5. Finally, maintain your focus. In a short cause or effect essay of 350-400 words, limit the range of your topic to either the causes or effects of something. Maintain focus, and do not stray. Make it easy for your reader to know your point of view, and make it memorable.

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Brainstorming Air Pollution: Its Causes and Effects

Brainstorming about Causes of Air Pollution and Effects of Air Pollution can lead to excellent, organized, in-depth, academic papers about either topic. Several ideas about both causes and effects are offered, so look at them with the question in your mind, "Which would I choose to write about?" When suggestions about organization are also offered. Ask yourself "Do they make sense?" Good brainstorming sessions should always help the writer present organized content that will appeal to the reader. After "brainstorming" The Causes and Effects of Air Pollution page, which would you write about?