My Family Essay Conclusion Words

So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.

The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.

To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
  • Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
  • Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.

To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:

  • Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
  • Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes.
  • Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise ofdehumanization"; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
  • Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure, by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.

Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:

  • Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
  • Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
  • Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."

Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

  • 1

    Cut redundant phrases. Your reader will have already noticed that this is the last sentence. There's no need to mention it using "in conclusion," "in summary," or similar phrases.[7] Remove these from the entire last paragraph for a more straightforward, punchy conclusion.

  • 2

    Be cautious when summarizing. If your essay is five pages or shorter, try to avoid summarizing or repeating your main points in the conclusion paragraph.[8] Your reader doesn't need to be reminded of what she just read, and this dry lead-in makes it difficult to write an inspiring or interesting final sentence.

  • 3

    Be cautious about bringing up a new topic. The last paragraph is no place to bring up a new topic, right before you jump ship and leave your reader to figure it out himself.[9] If your last sentence mentions a topic you haven't already discussed, delete it and try again. You can make an exception if your conclusion paragraph ties your paper's topic into the broader world around it, but be careful to keep your writing relevant to your thesis.
    • Ending in a question can be tough for this reason, since questions often introduce new ideas. A rhetorical question can serve as a final sentence, but it's best to rephrase it as a statement if you have any doubts.
  • 4

    Move evidence to earlier paragraphs. You might find the perfect statistic to support your point, but it still belongs earlier on in the paper. Similarly, don't end with a quotation that you're only including to back up your argument. If you do use a quotation, select one that produces inspiration or dramatic effect on its own.

  • 5

    Avoid changing tones dramatically. Emotional, dramatic endings are fun to write, but that doesn't mean they're always correct. An analytic paper that carefully examines evidence and argues a logical point has no reason for a final sentence full of emotional outburst, praise, or condemnation.[10]
    • This often turns up in the form of praising a country, "overcoming injustice," or other appeals to broad phenomena not specifically related to the paper topic.
  • 6

    Don't apologize. Keep your last sentence, and your entire essay, strong and direct. Remove apologies, self-doubts, and other phrases that undermine your authority.[11] If you didn't have time to cover a topic, don't mention it and don't apologize for it; your essay is what it is, and it's up to your readers to decide whether they like it.

  • 7

    Writing famous quotes in the end just takes your essay to another standard. It also helps a little in covering the mistakes you might have made in the last paragraph or maybe even throughout your whole essay.

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