Learn how to conclude your article, essay, story or poem. These five tips for writing strong conclusions are from freelance writer Susan Johnston.
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“There are no dull subjects,” said H.L. Mencken. “There are only dull writers.”
Are you a dull writer? Re-read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. One of his writing tips that “good books don’t give up all their secrets at once.” The best books wait until the end – the conclusion – before telling the biggest best secret of all. You can’t deny that King is the King of conclusions – and he knows firsthand that dull writing makes for dull reading. To jazz up your writing and write powerful words that grab attention, learn from freelance writer and prolific author Susan Johnston. Keep these tips handy, because you’ll need to keep referring to them!
First, a piece of reading and writing advice from Stephen King:
“There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words – the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.”
5 Tips for Writing a Good Conclusion
Many writers (including me) find it agonizingly hard to write strong endings because there’s so much at stake. We want to leave readers with a poignant, thought-provoking conclusion, but we also don’t want it to read too trite or corny.
1. Use a strong image or quote
There are tons of articles that use quotes or imagery as their conclusion. If you’re using a quote, make sure it’s a good one. In addition to relaying information, it should impart humor and/or wisdom and also be broad enough to sum up the rest of the article. Writing a great conclusion can be as simple as using a quip!
2. Conclude your article or essay with humor
In this humorous essay by a stay-at-home Dad, the author contrasts his own perspective with that of a father who works in an office. It’s a humorous way to write a great conclusion, and it keeps the essay from sounding too depressed or self-pitying about the author getting laid off. Humor is hard, so if it doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t force it. To write a great conclusion, consider using #1 instead.
3. Refer back to the introduction
This creates a nice sense of completeness and unity. For instance, in an article about staying in touch while living abroad, the author mentions Oreos at the beginning, then mention the Oreos again at the very end. Rounding back to the beginning is a great way to write a conclusion.
4. Edit out your last few sentences (the best tip for writing conclusions)
Many writers tend to over-write their conclusions, so often you’ll find that once you take a stab at it, you can go back and delete several sentences without losing any of the meaning. It will feel like you’ve come to a natural conclusion instead of easing your way into an endpoint.
5. If you’re really stuck, let your conclusion marinate
To write a great conclusion, step away from the computer and do something else. You’ll come up with a good ending when you’re on the treadmill or at the grocery store or some other place when you’re not expecting it. That way your conclusion will come to you organically instead of forcing it out. That’s how I found an ending to an essay about me and my brother.
Of course, many blog posts end with a series of questions designed to open up a conversation.
What do you think – what’s your best tip for writing a great conclusion? If you still can’t figure out how to write a conclusion, read 10 Short Story Endings to Avoid.
Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer and blogger who has covered business and lifestyle topics for The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, DailyCandy.com, Yahoo! HotJobs, and many other publications. Want to know more? check out The Urban Muse or follow her on Twitter.