A Brief Guide to Writing Cause and Effect Essays

The cause and effect essay includes some elements of writing that might be considered more professional than those a descriptive or narrative essay might include. It is very important, for instance, that your tone be reasonable, and that your presentation be factual and believable. Sources are often required in a cause/effect paper, and your choice of these sources is important as they reflect on the validity of your paper. Additionally, the first-person point of view does not work as well in professional essays. Consider the following sentences:
I believe that gun control measures should be taken in every hamlet in America.
Gun control measures should be taken in every hamlet in America.
In the first sentence, the first person is used. This would work in a narrative, but here it actually limits the meaning of the sentence to just the writer, and it makes the writer sound weak--as if he is justifying him or herself. The second sentence is much more forceful. It makes a statement and does not limit itself just to what the writer believes. The purpose of a cause and effect paper is to be as convincing as possible, and to convince readers to accept the cause/effect as plausible.
Features
1. A presentation of the event, phenomenon, or trend. Your reader must first understand what you are talking about and be given a thorough background. The degree of explanation depends on the complexity of the issue. If it's a simple issue, a writer might be able to explain it in the introduction. If it's a complex issue, a writer might need a paragraph after the introduction which goes into more detail. You may have to prove that a trend exists, for instance, before you can argue what its cause/effect is.
2. A convincing argument is necessary to persuade your readers that the proposed causes or results are at least as plausible as their own. To present such an argument, the writer must use sources which state facts and evidence. Examples and anecdotes can also be used. A convincing argument anticipates reader objections in advance.
3. A professional, reasonable voice. It is never wise to lose one's cool and state:
It's obvious that the changes in our weather patterns are due to industry's refusal to control their pollution. These slick business people have bought and paid for our Congresspersons.
In this example, by stating "It's obvious," the writer has insulted the reader's intelligence in advance. Then the writer goes on to name-calling ("slick") and a further insult of our elected officials. It could all be true, but why should we accept it? Compare:
The changes in our weather patterns could certainly be due to a number of factors, in particular, the heavy pollution created by our industry and the confusing and contradictory information touted by industrial lobbyists on the one hand and environmentalists on the other.
It's important to be fair and to keep your writing voice modulated, reasonable, and professional. It can be playful, but it must be authoritative. You must not sound uncertain or be insulting.

This article originally appeared on http://www.roanestate.edu/owl&writingcenter/owl/cause.html

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