Conclusions are among the most challenging parts of an essay to write well. It would help if you rounded off your essay effectively.
You need to leave your reader with the best possible impression of your work. And, you need to somehow recap all your central points without simply repeating yourself. Sound like a tricky balancing act? We explain it all in more depth below – read on for our tips on how to conclude an essay effectively.
How do I conclude an essay?
At the end of an essay, you must strike a balance between finishing with a powerful, memorable statement of intent – and coming across as entirely predictable and dull.
If you’re short on time, you can save yourself some serious work by simply writing a few bullet points summarising the main points of your essay:
- A clear understanding of your argument.
- A case for change.
- A hypothesis.
- A summary.
1. A strong connection between your thesis statement and your conclusion
Your thesis is the reason you’re writing an essay in the first place. Your conclusion is the whole argument built up from this core premise. So, it would help if you make sure that they clearly connect.
Tactic: Write your conclusion first, building on the strength of the thesis you’ve already articulated.
2. Play with perspective
This may be a self-evident point, but really effective conclusion language has some definite rules of thumb about where it can take you.
The best way to explain perspective in conclusion is by way of a parable: imagine that you’re in a train station waiting to catch the next train. You don’t have long to decide which train to get on.
To help you decide, look around and ask yourself “what do I know?” This simple, yet powerful exercise will help you understand the different types of perspective you have when taking in your surroundings.
Tactic: Keep things simple when it comes to perspective, and avoid writing conclusions that are so dependent on the reader that they become difficult to follow.
3. Avoid moralizing, if you can
Avoid moralizing (or, any mention of the writer’s opinions) in the final few sentences. Avoid over-emphasising the “good” of the world and under-emphasizing the “evil” (especially concerning the essay’s thesis, and therefore, your position).
In short, try not to confuse the reader.
Tactic: Avoid moralizing and misrepresenting the “good” of the world in the last paragraph, and the sole purpose of the argument in the introduction.
If you’re still struggling to find the right angle to take on an argument or conclusion, take an idea from John Adams.
“A good essay should be a diamond, sharp but not too sharp, valuable but not expensive. If it is not understood at once, it should hold the attention of the reader for several days. If the essay holds attention, it is worth writing.”
4. Choose your word carefully.
Strive to choose your word carefully. Avoid using words that have a lot of letters in them (eg, “brilliant”, “great”, “magnificent”). And don’t use words that contain a lot of other related words in them (e.g. “relationship”, “success”, “love”, “falling”). You don’t want to over-emphasize what your essay says about these things.
5. The ability to think backward and forwards.
When you’re concluding an essay, you’re essentially going back over all your key points and deciding whether they fit in with the way that you want to make your argument. You need to make sure that they make sense, that they’re logically consistent, and support the argument you’re trying to make.
6. Stick to one argument
Make sure that your essay has a clear argument, and stick to that argument as your conclusion, rather than wandering off into rambling ‘rivers of thought’ in an attempt to show off your deep and diverse thought process. An excellent essay makes an apparent argument, but also makes sure that it resolves it – this will be particularly important if you’ve written about two or more different issues.
7. End on a high note
When you’ve written a firm conclusion, you need to end on a compelling, memorable image or phrase to give your essay a good last line. Try to pull together your argument into a single sentence, or create a simple but memorable image or metaphor, which captures the essence of your essay and the idea that it’s trying to communicate.
8. Always start with a surprise – but keep it under control.
Not every essay needs an epic, unexpected last line. If you’re trying to say something complex, then using a grandiose, epic, dramatic way of getting to the point of your essay will most likely be effective, and dramatic. But if you’re trying to make a concise, focused point, then something straightforward and focused is much more likely to work better.
If you know exactly what you want your essay to say, but you’re struggling to find the best way to get to that point, then try your best to give yourself a challenge: try starting off with a surprising (but reasonable) argument and then back it up with an unexpected (but reasonable) conclusion. Try a different but simultaneously surprising and reasonable approach to summarising. Maybe begin by summarising one thing, and then explain what that thing is, using several more minor points and examples, rather than one big, overarching one? It might be a little out of the way, but the process might lead you to something much more effective, and ultimately, your readers will thank you for it.
9. Never end with the exact phrase as the first sentence of your essay
When you’re looking to get to the end of your essay, avoid simply repeating the first sentence. Try to break the essay up into sections, rather than just one massive list of points. Is even better to try writing each section as a separate paragraph rather than having each point presented at the end of the paragraph. This will give you more control over what you say and prevent your essay from sounding too vague or messy.
10. Add one final sentence of clarification.
You need to know where you’re going and how to get there. But do you need to know how to get there and finish off the essay? In some cases, it may be best to leave some things up to the reader to decide. Instead, try saying that you have one final paragraph of clarification at the end, which gives you a way to sum up, all of your main points in a single, understandable sentence.
Tactic: Make sure you know where you’re going before you start writing the end of your essay.
11. Forgive yourself for all mistakes – and then forgive yourself even more.
Don’t beat yourself up for writing poorly. This is one of the hardest things about essay-writing, and often, your brain is completely consumed by the amount of work you need to do, but when you look at it later, you can see that it’s all right.
Keep an eye on the deadline and try not to worry too much about it. Yes, you must get it done on time, but the deadline isn’t the important thing – it’s the quality of your work that matters.
Just like the conclusion of any great speech, this is where you need to connect with the emotions of your audience.
Tactic: The famous closing line of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech
So, if you want to write a powerful ending that leaves your reader feeling something, you need to make sure your essay concludes with the following three things:
A strong statement. This is the pivot point where you turn your argument into a conclusion.
Your argument’s explanatory power. This is a sentence, or even one or two paragraphs, of additional explanation to justify or highlight your core argument.
A persuasive anecdote or narrative that connects the core theme of your essay to something you’ve experienced or seen.
Make sure that your argument is strong and that it makes sense. If it doesn’t, that’s okay – you can probably work around it. But your core thesis will need to be strong to drive your conclusion.
Ensure your essay ends with a persuasive or influential statement, which, together with your conclusions, makes it easy for your audience to understand and connect with your ideas.