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Rhetorical Strategies: Cause & Effect and Definition


Rhetorical Style #5 Cause & Effect

The rhetorical style of cause & effect (reason & result) can best be explained in terms of a timeline. If all events in your life fall onto this timeline, there is a definite, mappable past, present, and future. Your job as a writer, within this style of writing, is to pick an event (X) and place it on the timeline. The word "event" does not only refer to an occurrence, however. It can refer to many things:

The event you choose to explore could also be a "thing" not in your life (non-personal). If you wanted to explore the causes and/or effects of an athlete's impressive performance or a movie's success, for instance, that would be fine.

Looking at X, you can trace its causes in the past, or its effects in the future. There are different types of causes and effects: immediate (near X, possibly the most influential), intermediate (further from X, influential), and remote (furthest from X, but still influential). This style of writing is similar to process analysis, but the focus is somewhat different; rather than focusing on all aspects leading to, or following from, the event in a step-by-step analysis, you want to focus on specific, recognizeable factors which influenced the event. After an event has been chosen, there are three general patterns this type of writing can employ:

To choose which pattern to follow, determine what is more important to your telling: the story (details) leading up to the event (cause), or the story (details) following the event (effect).

There are also two styles that can be used when writing a C&E essay. The first style is Cause & Effect Relation. In this style, focus on two or more seperate causes for a singular event. Each cause may take the form of an individual narrative or example, and they will be linked only by the fact that, when seen as a whole, they led to the effect you are focusing on. The pattern can also be applied to the future (exploring effects). The format for this style is as follows:

The second style is Causal Chain or Effectual Chain. In this style, focus on a remote cause, which leads to an effect. This effect becomes the intermediate cause. This cause leads to another effect, which becomes the immediate cause. This cause finally leads to the final effect. At this point, by creating a causal chain, you have explored the reasons behind an result. The pattern, when reversed, can also be applied to the future (exploring effects). The format for this style is as follows: Causal Chain or

Effectual Chain

Remember: focus only on causes and effects directly connected to your event (try not to stray).


Rhetorical Style #6 Definition

The rhetorical style of definition deals with the description of a person, place, or thing so that "it" can be better understood. There are two distinct ways to describe anything--denotatively or connotatively.

You may ask: How can a subjective definition be understood by an objective reader? The answer is simple.

Find a common experience shared by both you and your reader.

If you can find a common thread which runs between your and your reader's life, you will be able to allow them to understand your connotative definition. For example, you may not know anything about the feeling of anticipation associated with waiting for a homemade bagel to bake so that you can taste one for the first time, but you will probably be able to understand the concept of sitting in front of the oven, peeking through the glass, watching something bake, whatever it may have been. Along this same line, you may not know anything at all about the size or shape of chicken cutlets, but when you read about how they must be pieced together like a puzzle to cover the bread in a sandwich, you begin to visualize what this type of food looks like.

There are many ways to begin a definition paper. Here are some good ideas to utilize in the introduction, and possibly throughout the paper:

Most importantly though, you must use

While they function well everywhere, the most common place for examples to appear is in the body of the paper. Structure your definition paper around these examples--they are invaluable to your cause. You want your reader to understand exactly what your topic means to you--and they will be able to do this if they are able to understand and visualize your examples.

The contents of your conclusion are up to you. Ideally, your conclusion may focus on your definition's place in the world around you. Show your reader that your definition has earned a place among all the others-- because it is important to you.

Remember: any and all rhetorical strategies can be used in the construction of a definition--simply choose which one(s) will benefit your specific topic.


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