This may be the ‘older’ writer in me, but I have to devote this entire blog to conclusions. They seem to be missing in so much writing today and I lament their exit.
I’ve loved wrapping up a writing piece with a beautiful conclusion since we covered the 5-paragraph essay form in school. If you have an introduction, there must be a conclusion. So, why do I feel like I’m the only one writing one?
This issue came to my attention during a recent project where I was refreshing old content for a client. Most needed a serious word count infusion, thanks to new Google algorithms, so it wasn't like I was just copyediting. There was rewriting and new writing of a series of pieces that I didn't originate. Almost none had a conclusion of any kind. If they did, it was mostly a single sentence tacked onto a section of the post whether it made sense or not.
It felt like someone got up and walked out of the room mid-sentence….and never came back.
WHY A CONCLUSION HAS VALUE
Conclusions aren’t always just a restatement of your thesis. We’re not writing essays anymore (well, most of us) so there may not be a clearly defined thesis statement anyway, but your content has a purpose, and there's no better place to restate that purpose than in a powerful conclusion.
If you're writing for marketing, the conclusion is the ideal place to tell your readers what to do next. It’s an entire call-to-action section that asks them to take all they’ve just learned and do something very specific next. It keeps them engaged well beyond the single page of content they just read.
Conclusions can also work to get people thinking, to keep your piece in their brain longer. A conclusion that ends with an open-ended and strong question takes your topic off the page and allows it to linger in the reader's headspace. Considering how much content has to flight for a prominent role in this age of information overload, it's an impressive feat to linger, but all you need is a conclusion to pack the punch.
You also need a conclusion to round out your content. Your introduction pulls them in, the body of the piece gives them the details, but without a conclusion they're left hanging. Why would you want to trip up your readers like that? The conclusion gives them a natural endpoint; it wraps everything up and completes the journey they've gone through by reading your content. I know I always feel awkward after reading something without a conclusion. I’d never want to do that to someone else.
HOW TO WRITE ONE THAT WORKS
Let's go back in time to essay writing 101, also known as high school for most of us. This is where you learned the fundamentals of essay writing, and when it comes to conclusions, the fundamentals still work.
So, parsing out your conclusion means doing these key things:
- Summarizing the main point of your piece using different language
- Inserting a call to action if applicable
- Appealing to your reader’s emotions
- Ending the piece (without a shadow of a doubt)
Remember, your conclusion shouldn't be long, a single paragraph on average, so don’t try to reinvent the wheel. You only need to say what’s already been said in a different way and then invite readers to do something else to keep the momentum going. It won't take much in the way of word count.
SKIP CONCLUSIONS WHEN YOU'RE ASKED TO
I do hate to say this, but feel like I need to be fair. I don't always write conclusions. After all that, if my client doesn’t require them, and no other pieces have them, I don’t write them. Do I feel icky about it? A little. Does it make sense to me? No. But, I will say that conclusions can often feel more touchy feely and out of place in news. In this instance, I often work to take the piece to a natural end instead of devoting an entire section to wrapping things up. The lack of an obvious conclusion still doesn't mean your content can just fall off a cliff.
HERE'S THIS BLOG'S CONCLUSION, SO TAKE THAT
To conclude my blog about conclusions, I will remind you once more of their essential place in writing. Without them, readers are cut off from the content without a sense of closure. Stop leaving them hanging and take the time to write a concluding paragraph. A single sentence won't do. You have the power to end things and it's time to take it.