Some writers believe ending well is more important than starting strong. These five tips on how to end an article, essay, or chapter will help you find the right way to say “The End” without coming out and saying…ahem…The End.
“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.”
Ending an article with a great conclusion isn’t always as difficult as writing the introduction or beginning of the article. In fact, I’ve found that endings come quite naturally – both in my life and in my magazine articles. Blog posts are a whole different story, though; I more or less just stop writing when I feel finished. That’s what part of what I love about blogging – the informal, casual nature! But if you’re searching for tips on how to end an article, then you need something of substance.
Write with The End in mind. Even more importantly: live with The End in mind.
Whether you’re writing an article for a big famous magazine or living an adventurous life so you die fulfilled, keep an eye on your target. What is your goal for the piece of art you’re creating or the life you’re living? What is your theme, who are you writing (or living) for, why are you here?
As you’re writing your article or essay, keep your mind’s ears and eyes open for possible endings. This is important for you as a writer – and it’s even more important for you as a human being. Who do you live for, why were you created, and where will you ultimately end up?
5 Tips for Writing Good Endings
Some writers say the conclusion of an article could work just as well as the introduction – with a slight modification.
Your conclusion rounds out the article, ties up the loose ends. It’s not a tacked-on afterthought (unless you don’t have time to learn how to write an ending). To be effective, 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.
To end your article or conclude your essay, you could…
1. End with a quotation or surprising statement that ties into your theme
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 do editors, and English teachers. So, give your reader more of what you’ve been dishing up throughout your writing…and then give ’em a little poke in the ribs to wake them up. Not a fast job; just a gentle nudge in the exact right spot.
How about ending with a quotation or surprising statement that sums up the theme of your article or essay?
“…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 ending neatly wraps up the article and gives the reader something new to think about. This is difficult for most writers – even seasoned freelancers – and I don’t have a good example at my fingertips. I just know that great conclusions succinctly summarize the essay or article while giving the reader something new to consider.
The key to learning how to end an article is to experiment. Write different endings, save your work, and come back to it after you’ve had a nap or overnight train trip. How does the conclusion feel – does it need another massage and rest? Probably, if you’re writing right.
If you thought my “Live with The End in mind” was hippy-crazy, try this: ask your article how it wants to end. I believe my endings come naturally because I listen to the content and experts in my magazine articles. I’m always tuned to how they want to end themselves. Do they need a question, a startling fact, a quote from someone I interviewed for the article? Does the ending need all three?
You won’t find the exact 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 essay with a short story
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.
“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.”
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? Well, 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. The more power your prose has, the prettier the punch.
4. Summarize your work – but do it covertly, like Sherlock Holmes would
Okay, Sherlock Holmes isn’t the best example of covert summaries because he was actually quite loud and condescending when he summarized his detective work, but…let’s just move on.
A summary isn’t the best or most creative way to end your article, essay, or chapter because it’s typical, which is boring…but it can work if you’re in a pinch. If you don’t have time to end your article or essay in with creative edgy and quirky writing, then you’ll have to fall back on summarizing what you said in your introduction and main paragraphs.
Ho hum, but you’re done.
You run the risk of having your readers quit the article before you’ve actually written the conclusion, but…you’ve run out of time, patience, and energy.
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 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 the beginning of that which you have created
Ah, another brilliant tip on how to end an article that you’ve never heard of: write a conclusion that refers back to your introduction or opening statements. This, says some professional 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.
The best tip for ending an article or essay is the first one: Write with The End in mind. This takes practice, doesn’t it? If you’re writing with The End in mind, you must circle back to the reason for writing this article or essay. If you’re living with The End in mind, you must live in full awareness of the reason you were created (which is to connect with God so you live in joy and peace! Naturally.).
Good writing isn’t just about learning how to end an article with a strong conclusion or concluding an essay with a summary of all your main points. Rather, good writing is about weaving all the aspects of the whole piece together.
After all, you are creating a work of art that may well outlive you. Do it good.
On Writing Strong Endings for Articles, Essays, Lives
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. For it is not always necessary to follow the grammatical rules precisely when you’re writing!
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 slap on. I especially welcome your thoughts on listening to your life so you end it well 🙂
May you find the perfect ending for your article or essay. May you write – and live – with The End in mind, and may you be blessed with abundant life and natural endings.