From the Newsroom
Imagine poring over an interesting novel to find its end pages missing, or being glued on to an interesting TV program only to be interrupted by a power cut. Wouldn’t you go ‘argh’ with every last nerve in you screaming out. Likewise, nothing can be more annoying to your reader than an article that ends too abruptly or shabbily.
Each segment of an article – introduction, body and conclusion requires effort to make your piece a good one. But if you are anything like me, you’ll often be tempted to conclude quickly, after all, much effort has already gone into rest of the article. As writers we can often feel complacent, as if we have little to say by the time we find ourselves at the end. But I’ve had to remind myself each time that a clumsy conclusion can undermine all my efforts and leave the reader disgruntled.
What is the end like?
Concluding means bringing your article, blog post or your opinion piece to a convincing end – One that doesn’t leave the reader feeling dissatisfied. Depending on the article format let the conclusion length span between one to three short paragraphs. Make an exception for long format features and essays that can end slowly over many paragraphs. A conclusion that is too short will leave your reader discontent, while one that’s too long may turn dull and boring.
If you don’t know how long to keep your conclusions make sure it is at least 1/6 of your entire article.
FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED
Why care to conclude?: As writers we don’t have much of an option. Would you go shopping and pick up unfinished products or pay for a dish that’s not done yet? So expecting our readers to be putting up with shoddy conclusions or snipping off your article in the middle of nowhere is extremely unfair. You don’t leave your sentences incomplete while speaking, do you? It’s important to conclude to give a sense of finality. Read this link http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/HTNEXTstories/Hubble-helps-uncover-160-000-star-clusters/Article1-1121623.aspx now imagine if the article ended without the last paragraph. It would be quite incomplete, don’t you think?
Refocus on the bigger picture: At times as an eager writer who has packed in too much information in the article, the conclusion has given me a chance to tie up loose ends. This way the reader can step back a few paces and assimilate what has been read.
Be nice to your reader: Abrupt ends can also confuse your readers if you’ve discussed too much in your article. A good end gives the reader a sense of completion and closure without that nagging feeling of having wasted their time. It makes them feel the piece has reached its logical end.
It may surprise you but there are also many skip-to-the-end readers for whom a conclusion helps decide whether your piece is worth reading at all.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
Here are a few common conclusion strategies that work:
A relevant quote – Concluding with relevant quotes is common. From your interview notes glean one that sums up your article or gives a final word. Eg: This article ends with a quote within a quote and that makes is more interesting! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anas-aremeyaw-anas/tedtalk-investigative-journalism_b_3917030.html
End with a good fact that provokes thought – Choose to make your conclusion one that moves your reader to action. If you are discussing a problem let it head towards a solution. Your end must be powerful and interesting as in this article from the Atlantic:http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/09/the-work-addiction/309437/
Echo the introduction– Zoom out and end where you began. While your introduction moved from general to specific facts, the conclusion moves the other way. The end mirrors the beginning and must give the reader the reason for your write up. Eg:http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/08/16/identifying-the-real-life-mona-lisa.html
Pose a question – This is not the most interesting way to end your article. But if you decide to ask questions, make them pertinent and open ended. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/07/transylvania-hay/nicolson-text
End with an anecdote: For feature articles and your narrative style articles anecdotes work well. Make the end descriptive and leave your reader with images that linger.
HOW NOT TO CONCLUDE:
Keep in mind these no-go areas and save yourself some effort.
Time is up: Even though I am tempted, ever so often, I know that the conclusion is no time to make new points, arguments or cram facts. I make sure I’ve conveyed all the important facts in the body of my article. New ideas in the end will muddle up your article and your reader.
Fade out in style: Simply summarizing your write up makes for an unexciting read. End with some style and avoid text book endings and cliches at all costs. Avoid apparent phrases such as “In conclusion”, “ To sum”, “the point is” and so on. Instead a great last line should pack in some punch and round off your story well.
Not again: Don’t repeat what you’ve said already. While you begin your blog or article persuading your reader, you must end it with confidence.
Don’t be too opinionated: Sure, a conclusion needs to wrap up the article, but don’t be overbearing. Let the facts and arguments you’ve put across convince your reader. In this New Yorker article titled ‘Why teach English?’, see how the writer concludes with her opinion without sounding too high handed. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/08/why-teach-english.html
Even if you follow no rules to write your conclusion, just remember that the end that reads and fits your article well is the one that works.