Modes of Development: Cause and Effect

This week we’re focusing on modes of development (also called patterns of development). Both student writers and professionals often use these modes to organize ideas and emphasize a point.

Today we’re going to consider two of these: cause and effect. It’s appropriate to think about them together, since they’re two ends of the same writing seesaw. Causes make effects happen; effects are the result of causes.

For example: A woman moves into a new town and feels lonely, so she adopts a dog from an animal shelter. As she walks the dog every day, people come over to admire him, and she makes new friends.

Causes (reasons for adopting the dog): moving to a new town, loneliness.

Effects (results of adopting the dog):  new friends.

Personal issues also have causes and effects. Think about the break-up of a romance: What caused it (jealousy, incompatibility, infidelity)? What are the effects (a broken heart, grief, or relief and freedom)?

Here are some pointers for writing about cause and effect:

  • Focus on either causes or effects, not both. Mixing them together creates confusion.
  • Follow your instructor’s directions carefully. If you’re confused, email your instructor and ask for clarification.
  • To write an exceptional cause or effect paper, dig deep into a subject and find an unexpected cause or a surprising effect. For example, consider unusual ways that recent technology advances have changed our lives (effects) – or think about reasons why few people are reading newspapers (causes).

Politicians and community leaders often focus on causes and effects when they’re advocating change. Look around your community and your region: What issues interest you, and what are the causes and effects? Often you can find effective topics that way.

Both cause and effect are tremendously useful ways to organize and present ideas. Adopt the habit of thinking about both!

(To read about narratives, click two links – Part I and Part II. For suggested topics using modes of development, click here. You can also click links for other modes: process, and classification.)


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