AP Language & Composition

Home | Hawthorne Biography | Scarlet Letter Criticism | In Depth...Machiavelli Biography | Ripped from Your Papers #1 | Ripped from Your Papers #2 | Ripped From Your Papers #3 | Ripped From Your Papers #4 | Vocabulary Lesson 1 | Vocabulary Lesson 2 | Vocabulary Lesson 3 | Research Sources | AP Practice Test Calendar | Multi Choice Tips and Hints | Ethos, Pathos, Logos - The Foundation of Argument | AP Language & Composition | Your Study Habits | Tone and Attitudes | Fallacies | Active Reading and Annotation | AP Prose Style Calendar | AP Prose Style Chapter Outlines 1-6 | AP Prose Style Chapters 7-12 | AP Prose Style Ch. 13-16 | AP Glossary & Schedules | Glossary Presentations How To | Glossary Tests Study Tips | Passage Analysis Quick Guide | Patterns of Development Schedule, Term 2 | Patterns: Description Notes | Narration Mode Notes | Example Mode | Process Analysis | Comparison Contrast Notes | Classification and Division | Definition | Cause and Effect | Outside Reading Schedules/Booklists (scroll all the way down) | Persuasive Speech/Researched Argument | They Say/I Say | They Say I Say Slides Introduction | Cornell Notes How To | Creative Writing
Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect


The method of dividing occurrences into their elements to find relationships among them.


Causes: Which of the events preceding a specified outcome actually made it happen?

Example: What caused Adolf Hitler’s rise in Germany?

Why have herbal medicines become so popular?

Effects: Which of the events following a specified occurrence actually resulted from it?

Example: What do we do for (or to) drug addicts when we imprison them?


Effects are also predicted for the future.

                 How might your decision to major in history affect your job prospects?


Purpose: to explain or persuade

Explanation – make connections

Persuade – argue why one explanation of causes is more accurate than another or how proposed action will produce desirable or undesirable consequences.


Not only do you have to identify causes and effects, but also discern their relationships accurately and weigh their significance fairly.


They often occur in sequence (causal chain).


There are 2 types:

Immediate: occur nearest an event

Remote: occur further away in time

In addition, there are 2 types of causes:

Major causes: directly and primarily responsible for outcome

Minor causes (contributory): merely contribute to the outcome




                Formal logical arguments can be inductive or deductive.  Inductive argumentation lists cases, examples, and facts, and then ends with a logical conclusion (particular to general).  Deductive argumentation begins with a statement  of opinion and proceeds to prove it with cases, examples, facts (general to the particular).  The basic form of the deductive argument is a three-par format known as a syllogism.  The syllogism, you may recall, has a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion.  If your audience accepts your premises, then your conclusion is usually accepted.

                Here’s an example:

                Premise One:            Most Americans love violence.

                Premise Two:            Football is violent.

                Conclusion:              Therefore, most Americans love football.

                Sound reasoning can be undermined by logical fallacies.  The following is a list of common logical fallacies you are expected to know for the AP English Language and Composition Examination:


Logical Fallacies:


Post hoc (ergo propter hoc) aka  Circular Reasoning

: an assumption that because one event preceded another, it must have caused the other. Latin meaning “after this, therefore because of this.”

Example: superstitions (Think of The Crucible)

                Example:  He went to the store to buy shoes, and therefore, the house burned down.

                (I doubt it.  Probably somebody lit a match.  Buying shoes doesn’t make a house burn down.)



Oversimplification: does not consider all of the causes and effects inc. necessary and sufficient causes

Necessary: one that must happen in order for an effect to come about

Sufficient: one that brings about the effect of          itself

This can occur if opinions or emotions cloud interpretation of evidence



Attacking the Person

(Argumentum ad hominem) attacks the personality of the individual instead of dealing with the arguments and issues.

Example:  John smith can’t tell us anything about the  faithfulness of dogs because he has  no faith at all in anything.


Begging the Question

Assumes something to be true that needs proof.  The arguer uses as proof the very argument that needs proving.

Example:  The reason George is so smart is because he is very intelligent.(In other words, A is true because A is true.  Just a minute, here! I’ve got to show why George is intelligent—the condition that stands in need of proof can’t be the source of the proof!  “Intelligent” is just a synonym for “smart,” not evidence for it.)


Creating a False Dilemma

Uses a premise that presents a choice which does not include all the possibilities.

Example:  People hate politics because politicians often lie.

 (The premise that “people hate politics” is not  necessarily true; somebody is sitting in those chairs in Washington.)

Since rabbits are responsible for destroying most suburban lawns, homeowners should shoot rabbits on sight.


Describing with Emotionally Charged Terminology

Use vocabulary carrying strong connotative meaning, either  positive or negative.

Example:  Senator Jones is a commie, pinko, bleeding heart liberal who hates his mother, babies, apple pie, and the American way. (This form of the tactic—name calling—is perhaps most common.  Poor Senator Jones is getting a terrible  review; apparently, he hates all the things we               love, and is the things we hate, so our emotions are likely to be transferred form them to him by association, whether they are true about him or not.)


Either/Or Fallacy

Does not allow for any shades of meaning, compromise, or intermediate cases.

Example:  Either we abolish cars, or the environment is doomed. (Probably other factors contribute to this possibility besides cars.)


Generalizing from Insufficient Evidence

(Hasty generalization) uses too few of the examples needed to reach a valid conclusion.

Example:  Only motivated athletes become champions.

(Maybe not.  What are the other factors in becoming champions?  Good health? Superior genes?) 


 (Post hoc ergo propter hoc) attempts to prove something by showing that because a second event followed a first event, the second event is a result of the first event.


Tasks for Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”


1. Using the chart, map Machiavelli’s use of cause and effect relationships in this piece. Be sure to label immediate, remote, major and minor causes. 


2. Examine “The Prince” in terms of its syllogism. Determine whether or not his argument is inductive or deductive. Create a syllogism for “The Prince.”


3. Find three logical fallacies in “The Prince.” Back them up with quoted evidence and explanation of their effects both on the piece and the audience.



If a handout is available online (e.g., a newspaper article) I might include the appropriate link to the information students need on this page.