You’ve spent hours pouring your heart and soul into a blog post. You have an important message to share with your audience, and you’ve crafted a piece that you know will help them.
But now you’ve reached the conclusion, and you don’t know what to write. You fear that you’ve said all you have to say, and if you tack on more sentences to your piece, you’ll just be repeating yourself.
But you know you can’t skip the conclusion. If you’re writing a persuasive or inspirational piece, the conclusion is the last place you have to convince the reader of your opinion. A weak conclusion can diminish the effect of your entire piece of writing.
It’s like if you were enjoying a three-course meal at a fancy restaurant. The soup was creamy and delicious, the steak was perfectly cooked, but then the dessert arrived, and the pie tasted funny. That’s the taste that’s going to linger in your mouth after you finish the meal.
Just like the chef needs to wow you with the final course, you need to wow your readers with your conclusion. Otherwise, your piece will feel unfinished and be unsatisfying to your readers.
So how can you wow your readers?
In today’s blog post, let’s look at five different techniques famous writers have used to craft powerful conclusions that made their pieces memorable.
1. The Bonus Tip
This is a fantastic conclusion for blog posts, especially how-to’s or personal development articles.
It works like this: Let’s say you’ve shared in the body of your article a step-by-step process for accomplishing something. For example, you’re writing about how to master the basics of drawing in 30 days. But you save one final “bonus” tip for your conclusion.
It should be a tip that ties everything together. Usually, it’s best if it’s motivational or profound. For example, you might write in your conclusion about how none of the strategies will work unless the reader commits to practicing every day and doesn’t allow themselves to grow discouraged if their first drawings look terrible.
Neil Gaiman used this type of conclusion in his 2012 commencement speech at The University of the Arts. In his speech, he shared the six lessons he wished he knew when he was first starting out as a writer: how to follow your passion, how to deal with failure, etc.
Then, in his conclusion, he tied everything together with a final piece of advice that would help you implement all of the previous tips he’d shared:
Someone asked me recently how to do something she thought was going to be difficult, in this case recording an audio book, and I suggested she pretend that she was someone who could do it. Not pretend to do it, but pretend she was someone who could. She put up a notice to this effect on the studio wall, and she said it helped.
So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.
And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.
Notice that Gaiman makes his conclusion even more powerful by including several more lines after his “bonus tip” that call his hearers to action. Adding a call to action is an excellent way to make your conclusion more compelling if you’re writing an inspirational piece.
2. The Quote
This type of conclusion is quite simple. You include a quote either at the beginning of your conclusion or at the end.
Make sure your quote is not overly long and that it either sums up the main idea of your piece or it adds a final thought to ruminate over. It’s often best not to just tack on the quote to the end of your piece. Don’t write: “In conclusion, here’s a thought-provoking quote to end with…”
Instead, use the quote to back up your concluding thoughts. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. uses a quote with heart-stirring effect in the conclusion of his famous “I Have A Dream” speech:
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!’
3. The Zoom-In
This type of conclusion works well for personal essays. Essentially, you take a specific image or moment in time and zoom in on it, describing it in more detail. The image should encapsulate the main idea of your piece.
E. B. White uses this type of conclusion in his essay “Here is New York”. White takes a stroll through New York City and reflects on the city’s personality. He ends with the image of an old willow tree,
A block or two west of the new City of Man in Turtle Bay there is an old willow tree that presides over an interior garden. It is a battered tree, long suffering and much climbed, held together by strands of wire but beloved of those who know it. In a way it symbolizes the city: life under difficulties, growth against odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun. Whenever I look at it nowadays, and feel the cold shadow of the planes, I think: ‘This must be saved, this particular thing, this very tree.’ If it were to go, all would go — this city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death.
4. The Full Circle Story
In this article, I wrote about how a story can make for a captivating introduction. It can be a story about yourself or an anecdote that relates somehow to the theme of your piece.
Now here’s the cool part: If you open your piece with a story, you can bring it full circle by returning to it in your conclusion.
Usually, this is most effective if you left the story open-ended in your introduction. Your readers are waiting to find out what happens.
Or if you concluded the story in your introduction, you can revisit it from a different angle at the end of your piece.
You can also use the “full circle” technique with a story you shared later on in the body of your piece. For example, Virginia Woolf mentions Shakespeare’s sister in the body of her essay “A Room of One’s Own”.
In the conclusion, she brings this story full circle:
I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young — alas, she never wrote a word…Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed…Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worthwhile.
5. The Urgent Call to Action
Finally, as we have seen earlier, if you’re writing a persuasive or motivational piece, it is very effective to end with a “call to action” conclusion.
This type of conclusion emphasizes the urgency of solving the problem. What happens if your readers don’t take action? What will happen if they do?
One of the most famous calls to action appears at the end of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death” speech:
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
These five techniques are only a small selection of the many different ways you can end a piece of writing.
You can even combine several of these techniques together to make them more powerful. For example, a conclusion could open with a quote, then share a bonus tip, and end on a call to action.
No matter how you decide to conclude your piece, make sure you’re not just summarizing or repeating what you’ve already said in the previous paragraphs.
Dig deeper than you have in the body of your piece. Take your arguments to their most profound extent. Leave your readers with a final thought to chew on.
In his book Storycraft, editor Jack Hart observes,
Resolution is the ultimate aim of every story… It contains the lesson that the audience carries away, the insight that the story’s readers or viewers or listeners can apply to their own lives.
Zero in on that one lesson, that one big idea, you want your readers to take away. This will make your conclusion and, thus, your entire piece memorable, just like the last satisfying bite of a delicious meal.
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