Cause/Effect Writing Style

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Handout – CSS 301

Cause/Effect Writing Style

Example scenarios

  • Why your company’s year end report was not done by the end of the year

  • How the colonists’ desire for freedom led to the American Revolution

  • How under-funding your children’s school has led to lower-than-average test scores

Three Methods to Organize

In either of the first two, you can list your causes in chronological order (first cause through last cause); reverse chronological order (last cause through first cause); ascending order of importance (least important to most important); or descending order of importance (most important to least important).

The cause-effect pattern – First you state the causes, and then you name the effect(s).



Abolish time clocks; put employees on the honor system

Improved employee morale

Increase lunch hour break from 45 min to 1 hour

Offer an additional coffee break in the afternoon

The effect-cause pattern – State the effect, then describe its causes.



War between the Union and the Confederacy

Arguments over slavery

Economic conflict between the North and South

Southern fears of losing political power

The cause-effect chain – Show how the effect becomes a cause leading to another effect.


Starlings take over local cow barns.


Farmers poison starlings.


Dead starlings poison hawks.


Hawks die off.


Without hawks, mice population explodes.


More mice to pass deer ticks to humans.


Lyme disease increases.

Edit Checklist!

Does my introduction give an overview of my ideas in the form of a one or two sentence thesis statement?

Have I identified which causes are immediate, which are underlying, and which are remote?

Have I chosen a clear and effective way of organizing my paper?

Have I chosen the most effective order for the causes and effect I identified?

Have I used transitions words to make clear the relationships between causes and effects?

Have I provided enough details and examples to support my ideas?

Have I included only real causes?

Does my conclusion leave my readers with a clear understanding of my ideas?

Does my conclusion let the readers know how they will benefit from sharing my ideas?

C-E Example

Scenario: Marisol lives in Eastern Pennsylvania, where Lyme disease was getting out of control. She and a group of concerned neighbors researched the problem. Then Marisol wrote the following draft of a C-E paper with the purpose of persuading readers that government officials needed to take action.

Evaluate the essay. What works? What doesn’t work? How would you fix it?

Many people are not aware that the reason for the rising incidence of Lyme disease in our community is the use of a new pesticide. Local farmers, fed up with cleaning up after flocks of starlings that have invaded their barns, decided to kill the birds using this poison. They disposed of the dead birds on the manure piles in their back fields. The hawks absorbed the poison through their intestines and died in great numbers. The scarcity of hawks led to an explosion in the population of field mice. The incidence of Lyme disease in the area this spring has reached an all-time high. These field mice often carry deer ticks into villages and towns.

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