Writing Cause and Effect Essays for English Learners

Writing Cause and Effect Essays
Writing Cause and Effect Essays. James McQuillan / Getty Images

Cause and effect composition is a common type of writing in English that shows up often on important tests and is, therefore, necessary to master. Develop your cause and effect writing skills by first reviewing the structures and practices of standard essay writing and then diving into what makes a successful cause and effect essay.

Cause and Effect Writing

As when writing any other essay, you need to use evidence and examples as well as attention-grabbing techniques when doing cause and effect writing. The key difference between standard essays and cause and effect essays is that cause and effect composition addresses topics or problems by outlining the causes and effects, or reasons and results, of several components of a topic.

Cause and effect essays are generally organized by problems, outcomes, and possible solutions. Though cause and effect writing isn't exclusively used to address problems, this type of composition often involves writing prose that proposes solutions to an issue—cause and effect writers can use the consequences of various occurrences to speculate about how to solve a dilemma.

No matter what the purpose of your cause and effect essay, the first thing you need to do to start writing is brainstorm.

Brainstorm Topics

Step 1: Come up with ideas. Get started brainstorming topics right away—the objective of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible before writing. Brainstorming helps you think creatively about a cause and effect topic in order to come up with something that you truly want to write about. Don't get caught writing about a topic that doesn't interest you because you didn't take the time to brainstorm.

When brainstorming for cause and effect essays specifically, be sure to think of both reasons and results. Follow each idea from its cause to its effect to make sure that your arguments are well-founded so that you don't waste time on ideas that won't go anywhere.

The following cause and effect example ideas show the results of a successful brainstorming session.

Cause and Effect Examples
Topic Cause Effect
College  Go to college to get a stable career


Apply only to prestigious schools


Choose to study a popular major for job security
Graduate with debt/loans


Don't get accepted into college anywhere

Heavy job competition upon graduation
Sports Play a sport to stay fit and healthy


Prioritize sports over other extracurriculars 

Join a team for the comradery 
 
Sustain injuries from repeated bodily strain

Difficulty getting into desired college


Trouble maintaining relationships with friends that do not play sports
Example topics with several possible causes and effects for each of them.

Write an Outline

Step 2: Create an outline. An outline provides a map for your writing and you should never try to write an essay without one. Some teachers even require you to write an outline before you are allowed to start an introductory or body paragraph because they improve the quality of writing so significantly.

Use ideas from your brainstorming session to "jot down", or quickly write, ideas for how your whole essay might progress (these do not have to be in complete sentences). An outline makes organizing much easier but does not have to be rigid—feel free to make changes as needed. See the following cause and effect essay outline example for help.

Title: How Fighting Fast Food Can Help End Obesity

I. Introduction

  • Hook: Statistic about obesity
  • Thesis statement: Obesity has become the number one threat to good health in developed countries.

II. Body Paragraph 1: Availability and overeating

  • Availability
    • Fast food is everywhere
    • Impossible to ignore
  • Health Problems
    • Buy too much fast food too often because it's everywhere
    • Obesity, heart problems, diabetes, etc.
  • Plan ahead
    • Easier to resist when you have a plan
    • Meal prep, take different routes, etc.

III. Body Paragraph 2: Affordability and overspending

  • Affordability
    • ...
  • Overspending
    • ...
  • Educate
    • ...

IV. Body Paragraph 3: Convenience

...

V. Conclusion

  • End obesity by teaching people how dangerous fast food can be

Cause and Effect Language

Step 3: Choose the right language. Now you can write a great cause and effect essay using your outline. There are several language formulas that can effectively show cause and effect relationships, so take the time to choose the best ones for your piece. As always, vary your sentence structures for a smoother read and use plenty of evidence to write a convincing essay, then try some of these phrases to take your cause and effect arguments to the next level.

Cause Language

  • There are several reasons for...
  • The main factors are...
  • The first cause is...
  • [Cause] leads to or might lead to [effect]
  • This often results in...

Effect Language

  • Before [cause]...Now [effect]...
  • One of the results/outcomes of [cause] is...Another is...
  • A primary effect of [cause] is...
  • [Effect] often occurs as a consequence of [cause].

Linking Language

Make your cause and effect essay more coherent with linking language—or sentence connectors—that make the relationships between causes and effects crystal clear.

Use the following conjunctive adverbs to smoothly transition from one idea to the next in your cause and effect writing.

  • Also
  • Too
  • In addition
  • Thus
  • Therefore
  • Consequently