How do you end your article with an echo that reverberates in your reader’s mind long after she stops reading? Endings are important. So important, in fact, that some writers say a strong ending is more important than a strong beginning. I disagree. If you don’t hook your reader from the start, she’ll never get to the end.
Nevertheless, ending your article on a high note gives it power to stick with the reader forever. Or a really long time. In this article, you won’t find a “one size fits all” tip on how to end your article because it doesn’t exist. You will, however, find the five most effective ways to write a conclusion.
“It is always important to know when something has reached its end,” writes Paulo Coelho in The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession. “Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.”
Sometimes the ending practically writes itself. Other times you have to wrestle that ending to the ground. Either way, you must be alert. Writing a great conclusion is easier when you have a variety of tools and techniques to choose from. Who goes into battle empty-handed? These five tips for ending your article will help you find the right way to say “The End” without coming out and saying…The End.
Whether you’re writing an article for a national magazine or blogging a little blurb, keep the ending at the back of your mind. What impression do you want to leave the readers with? How do you want them to feel, what do you want them to do? As you research, write and revise your article, stay alert to possible endings. Play with different ideas.
5 Tips for Writing Powerful Endings
Some writers say the conclusion of an article could work just as well as the introduction – with a slight modification. I think it depends on your article, writing style, and audience.
Your conclusion rounds out the article, ties up the loose ends. It’s not an afterthought. To be powerful, a strong 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.
1. End with a quotation that looks back or looks forward
You don’t necessarily want to add anything too new to the end of your article, but you can include a surprising twist. Readers want the same, but different. So do editors and publishers. So, give your reader more of what you’ve been doing in the article — ending with a little poke in the ribs.
“…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 most powerful ending neatly wraps up the article and gives the reader something new to think about. This is difficult for most writers – even seasoned freelancers. Imagine your ending as a fork in the road. Where do you want readers to go? Write two or three different endings, then take a break. Have a nap, visit another world. Now how does the ending feel? Maybe it needs more work, or maybe one of your conclusions does the job.
The bad news is there is no one perfect way to write a powerful ending to your article. This is also the good news! If there was one perfect way to end it, then all writers would use that conclusion. And it would lose its power. You need to find the right ending for your article.
3. Finish with a dollop of something different
“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off,” says Paula LaRocque, author of The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well. “If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
This type of conclusion might involve weaving in (not tacking on) a whole new anecdote, or including a new bit of information that adds to the story you introduced in the lead or body of the article. Many professional freelance writers like to end with a relevant story, a little vignette, something that gives the reader a feeling that the essence of the article or essay was captured.
How do I end my articles? I circle back to the beginning somehow – it depends on the topic, interviewees, audience, article length, and deadline. I often include more information about something I introduced earlier in the article.
“What is this ‘more’ you speak of?”, you ask? It depends on the article you’re writing. That’s the pain and power of writing: so much simply depends on so many things. If you know how to end your article or essay but your writing is flimsy and weak, read How to Write Powerful Words That Grab Attention.
4. If you must summarize, do it with style
Some endings need to clearly restate and summarize the article’s main argument. Other articles don’t need a summary because there wasn’t a stated theme. Does your article need a summary? Ask it. Ask yourself as the writer. Maybe even ask a beta reader. If you’re arguing for or describing something complicated or new to readers, perhaps a summary is the most powerful way to end the article.
A summary isn’t the most creative way to end your article, but you can spice it up with different literary techniques. Use sensory details to fire up your writing, or bring an inanimate object alive with personification. Learn different types of edgy and quirky writing. Sometimes it’s not what you write…it’s how you write it.
Here’s how NOT to end an article:
- “In summary, I would like to say….”
- “The End.”
- “In conclusion, may I reiterate….”
- “I know I said this in my intro and in paragraphs three through thirty, but it cannot be overstated that…”
I take a week to write magazine articles. This allows my brain and the article to tell me how to write a powerful ending. It’s never perfect, but it is as good as I can write it.
5. Circle back to the beginning
The final, most powerful tip on how to end an article: write a conclusion that refers back to your introduction or opening statements. This, says some professional freelance writers, gives readers a feeling of arrival.
You could pick up a word, a phrase, or part of an anecdote from your introduction, and round it out more. Don’t just repeat it; expand on it, color it in, give it some texture and depth. Ideally, leave readers with a hook at the end of your article – something that lodges in their minds so deeply that they can’t forget it right away.
Good writing isn’t just about learning how to end an article with a strong conclusion or conclude an essay with a summary of all your main points. Rather, good writing is about weaving all the aspects of the whole piece together.
On Writing Powerful Endings
Are you a professional writer (or do you wanna be)? Make sure you read The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker.
This is a short, cheerful, practical book on not just how to end an article or essay, but how to be a more imaginative, empathetic, coherent, GOOD writer. Pinker explains why certain grammar rules exist, and encourages writers to apply the guidelines where necessary.
I welcome your thoughts on writing good endings – and learning how to listen to your article for the ending it wants to tell. Remember that writing a good ending involves editing and revising; it’s not something you can just tack onto the end.
I hope your article whispers the most powerful ending in your ear, and that you’re able to write it the exact right way.