How to End an Article With an Exciting Exit
Knowing how to write an ending to your magazine article, academic essay, or book chapter is almost as important as writing a lead that hooks your readers.
“Life goes on, and for the sake of verisimilitude and realism, you cannot possibly give the impression of an ending,” said short story writer John O’Hara. “You must let something hang. A cheap interpretation of that would be to say that you must always leave a chance for a sequel. People die, love dies, but life does not die, and so long as people live, stories must have life at the end.”
The takeaway? Writing a conclusion is just as much work as writing the whole piece. Your ending shouldn’t wrap your article or essay up completely neatly and tidily. Give your reader something to think about. Satisfy her, but incompletely.
In fact, your ending is one of the most important parts of your writing! That, and all the stuff in the middle, of course 🙂
Before the tips on how to write an ending, here’s a quip from writer Rita Mae Brown:
“Writing and money appear to be mutually exclusive,” said Brown, author of dozens of books. Not true! I completely disagree. I earned over 100K last year as a writer, believe it or now. Writing and money are not mutually exclusive if you treat your writing career like a business.
Part of the writing biz is knowing how to end your articles, book chapters, and essays. So, here are five ways to write an ending to your magazine article, academic essay, or book chapter…
5 Tips on How to End an Article
Some writers believe the conclusion could have worked as the lead or introduction. It rounds out the article, and ties up the loose ends. The conclusion shouldn’t be an afterthought. To be effective, a great ending has to develop naturally from the article, essay, or chapter. The conclusion has to both surprise readers and make them feel like they should’ve known it was coming all along.
To write an ending or conclusion for your work, you could…
1. End with a quotation or startling statement
You don’t necessarily want to add anything too new in your conclusion, but you can include a surprising twist at the end. Readers want the same, but different. So give your reader more of what you’ve been dishing up throughout your writing…and then give ’em a little nudge in the ribs to wake them up.
“…don’t make the surprise so foreign that it seems out of place and doesn’t tie into the article. If the quote or surprising statement seems out of place, then you only leave the reader confused, and you have lost the value of what you have built throughout the article,” writes Roger Palms in Effective Magazine Writing: Let Your Words Reach the World.
2. Invite the reader to go in a different direction
The best type of ending to write is one that both wraps the article up with a nice tidy bow and gives the reader something new to chew on. This is difficult for most writers – even seasoned freelancers – and I can’t even think of a good example right now! Great conclusions wrap the essay, article, or chapter up neatly, while giving the reader something new to consider.
If you’re still stuck on how to end an article, you’re not alone. The reason you and everyone else is stuck is because your article wants to tell you how it wants to end. You won’t find the perfect tip on how to end your article, essay, or chapter here because you need to listen to your writing.
3. End your article or chapter with a short little story
This type of conclusion can involve a whole new anecdote, or a new part of a story you introduced in the lead or body of the article. Palms says, “Often I like to end with a relevant story, a little vignette, something with a feeling that captures the essence of the article.”
How to I end my articles? I round back to the beginning somehow. I offer more information in the conclusion about something I wrote about in the introduction. What is this “more”, you ask? It depends on the article you’re writing.
Read How to Write Powerful Words That Grab Attention – because the more power your prose has, the prettier the punch.
4. Summarize your work
A summary isn’t the best or most creative way to end your article, essay, or chapter because it can be boring…but it can work. It depends on the writer’s creativity (edgy and quirky writing will keep readers hooked!), the content of the essay, and even the lead of the article.
Writing a summary ending is an option — but as Palms says, “You also run the risk of having your readers quite the article before you have concluded.”
Here’s how not to end an article:
- “In summary, I would like to say….”
- “The End.”
- “In conclusion, may I reiterate….”
I often write my magazine articles over a week’s time. The ending burbles to the surface; my article tells me how to end it. Blog posts are a different story – I can pound out a 2,000 word blog post here on Blossom in two hours. But blogging is a different beast than writing for magazine editors and publishers, isn’t it? That’s why I love blogging and will never give it up 🙂
5. Circle back to your lead
Ending your essay or article with a reference to your lead “gives a feeling of arrival,” says Palms. “You might want to pick up a word, a phrase, or part of an anecdote from the lead and bring it into the conclusion.”
He adds that he likes to leave readers with a hook at the end of an article, something that lodges in their minds so deeply that they can’t forget it right away.
A good ending ties together all the discoveries.
On Ending Well
Have you read William Zinsser’s On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction? Good writing isn’t just about learning how to write a conclusion. It’s about weaving all the aspects of your writing together, and ending your article, essay, or chapter by pulling all the threads together in a tidy little bundle.
If you have any questions or thoughts on ending your articles, essays, or chapters, please comment below. And, remember that writing a good ending involves a lot of editing and revising.
May you find the perfect way to conclude your article, chapter, or essay – and may you sleep easy tonight.