In a relatively short Cause or Effect essay, it is important to remember that
Cause or Effect essays are not to be about both causes and effects. On the
contrary, in a short essay of 350-400 words, it is important to focus on writing
about either the causes of something or the effects of something, not both. The
reason for this is that it is simply not wise to try to cover too much
information in a short essay.
Consider a topic such as "Air Pollution in Mexico City" as an example. If you
were to write a twenty-page, exhaustive study about air pollution in Mexico
City, perhaps it would be possible to write about both the causes and effects,
ten pages describing the causes of air pollution and then ten pages describing
the effects of air pollution. However, when writing two or three pages about "Air Pollution in Mexico City," it is necessary to limit your
topic so you can cover it thoroughly. Using air pollution in Mexico City as an example, it would
be very easy to develop a paper about the causes of air pollution in
Mexico City as follows:
What are the causes of air pollution in Mexico City, for example? Students in the
past have said (1) exhaust from automobiles and trucks, (2) soot from industry
smokestacks, (3) geography, (4) speed bumps, (5) corruption at emissions
inspection stations, (6) more high pollution cars as a result of no-drive days,
(7) insufficient low pollution public transportation, etc. Any of these ideas
about the causes of air pollution can be developed into a two or three page
essay. It would be possible to write about just one cause, the main cause, and
explore it in depth, or it would be possible to write about the three main
causes, for example.
On the other hand, what are the effects of air pollution in Mexico
in the past have said (1) poor visibility, (2) headaches, (3) emphysema, (4)
allergies, (5) runny eyes and nose, (6) shorter life span for Mexico City's
residents, (7) lower quality of life for Mexico City's residents, (8) necessity
to stay indoors, (9) more sitting in front of the television, (10) destruction
of wildlife, (11) negative world attention, (12) decrease in tourism, etc. Any
of these ideas about the effects of air pollution can be developed into a two or
three page essay. As above, it would be possible to write about just one effect,
the main effect, or it would be possible to write about the three main effects.
Points to remember when writing a Cause or
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 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 above example about the effects of pollution in Mexico City, you
may write your ideas as follows:
Effects of Air Pollution in
more sitting in front of the
necessity to stay indoors_____destruction
negative world attention_______________decrease
quality of life
runny eyes and nose
When looking at all these effects of air pollution in Mexico City—there are
twelve of them—it is necessary to
consider which ones you want to write about. It would be impractical to
write about the first effect and the second effect all the way up to the
eleventh and the twelfth effect. In a short essay, listing them all
would never work. But would it be possible to list several effects under a
single heading such as health effects as shown in the chart on the right?
Organization of Effects
1. runny eyes and nose
1. negative world attention
2. decrease of tourism
1. more sitting in front of the TV
2. Necessity to stay indoors
3. lower quality of life
From the list above, what other effects could be listed as health effects
besides runny eyes and nose and emphysema? There are at least four or five
additional apparent health effects listed. Please include them under
health effects on the
Obviously, if you were to write about the Effects of air pollution in Mexico
City, health effects would be an important part of your essay.
The full list of the twelve effects listed above contains other negative
effects such as (1)
negative world attention and (2) decrease of tourism. How can these effects of air
pollution be categorized, and what other effects could be listed in this
Finally, another important effect of air pollution in Mexico City
relates to lifestyle effects. Pollution effects the day-to-day
living among many of Mexico City's residents, especially the aged and the young.
Besides those listed above and in the chart on the right, can you add other
lifestyle effects of air pollution?
Question: Is it possible to categorize any other effects of air pollution in
Mexico City? Your goal should be to try to organize your information into three
or four main points, if possible, so it can be presented to the reader clearly
and concisely. If you were to write an essay about the effects of air pollution
in Mexico, what are the three or four main categories that you would include?
List them in the following spaces.
Other points to remember when writing a Cause or Effect essay are as follows:
3. Support all causes or effects with supporting details. If you believe, for
example, that an important effect of air pollution in Mexico City is a lower
quality of life for the city's residents, state your point clearly at the
beginning of a paragraph and then provide support to help your reader understand how or why that is true.
4. Have a rationale for the order in which you present your information.
There is often one major cause or effect that is most important. Some
sources recommend that you save your most important cause or effect until last.
By saving your most important cause or effect until last, they say, you leave
your reader with a very strong impression. Others say to start with the
most important cause or effect because that helps capture your reader's
attention. In reality, there is no single, best answer for the order of
major causes or effects. Experiment, 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. A cause or effect essay doesn't recommend how to change the
situation or give opinions about why the situation is good or bad. It simply
examines the reasons for it.