Imagine this: when you sat down to write the words started pouring out. Your research provided you with a great intro, sure to hook readers and keep them reading. The body of your piece went together smoothly, with each sections flowing easily into the next. But now you’re at the end.
And suddenly there’s a problem—you just don’t know how to leave off.
There are a few secrets that, once revealed, can help you write a good ending (also known in write-speak as a “kicker”) every time. But in order to learn them we have to go back to grade school for a moment.
Technique 1: The Burger Technique
During grade school my teachers taught us to write a 5 paragraph essay using what they called the burger technique: Each element of the burger represents a section of the essay. The top bun is the introduction, the meat is the main idea (with multiple patties representing additional body paragraphs) and the bottom bun is the conclusion.
This was then used to explain that a conclusion should, in many ways, be a restatement of the introduction. During school this was often quite literal—you could copy-paste the introduction, tweak it to create a good conclusion and guarantee yourself an A.
Now fast forward back to the present day: you—ve probably realized that there is very little crossover between academic writing and article writing. After all, few people read academic texts for fun. When they open a magazine they don’t want to read a research paper; they want to read a story.
However, sometimes finding the perfect ending is as simple as going back to the beginning. If you started with a real-life story, ending it with some additional information on how that person or family is doing now provides a sense of summation for readers. If you began with a statistic or a quote, ending with a final line on the same topic can do the same.
For example in a recent piece I opened with, “While the available selection of cat treats has yet to catch up to dog treats, manufacturers seem to have recognized the category’s potential.” And I ended with, “The cat treat category may not have caught up to the dog treat section yet, but with the right mix of ingredients retailers can still taste success.”
Technique 2: Sometimes An Expert Says It Best
Another popular strategy when writing is to end with a quote. If you have a great quote from a qualified expert, sometimes that’s all you need. The quote should sum up the content of the piece, while still providing a sense of closure.
For example, a recent piece I wrote on selling catnip ended with the following expert quote: “Hamilton adds that retailers can keep catnip-related sales lively by making sure products are still saleable. “Cats will respond more to a product containing fresh catnip, which results in improved customer satisfaction and encourages repeat sales,” she says.” The quote summed up the things I had used the article to mention without being repetitive.
And you can always combine this with the previous technique by ending with a quote from the same expert (or real life story) that you opened with, which creates a sense that the piece has come full circle.
Technique 3: A Witty Closing Shot
A third technique is to end with something witty. This is similar to the first technique, where you revisit your introduction, but generally it means revisiting something a bit higher up on the page—your headline, for instance.
In yet another pet article I had published recently, this one on selling products for kitty behavior modification, I took the angle that modifying behaviors was all about giving kitty productive outlets for her instincts and titled the piece ?Instincts Gone Wild.”
My last paragraph read as follows:
Pet retailers who use this strategy—pass along their expertise to their employees and then leverage that knowledge with sales supporting displays—will build better bonds between cats and their owners and better sales for their stores. And no one ever has to know that it wasn’t all done on instinct.
These three techniques don’t cover every possible ending, of course, but they do cover a great many of them. So next time you sit down to write you can feel confident that your ending will flow smoothly from your fingers to the page—now all you—ve got to do is figure out what to write for the rest of the piece.
Melissa Breau spent three years as an editor at a magazine but in 2011 decided to launch full speed ahead into the freelance life. Now she happily plays with words for a living under the guise of offering copywriting for small businesses and professional editing for authors.