The Renegade Writer

Are You Missing Out on These 3 Ways to Write the Perfect Article Ending?

By Melissa Breau

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.

Feb 18, 2013 Advice, Writing

18 Responses

  1. Thanks for the chance to share this Linda!

  2. These are helpful ideas, I only stuggle with this occasionally. I’m sure this will help. Just like a good book, article should have a good ending too.

    • Thanks Peter! I’m glad you found the ideas helpful — and I couldn’t agree more with your statement about the importance of a good ending. I think nothing confuses a reader more than leaving a piece with a sense that it isn’t complete.

  3. Lisa says:

    I can never write a piece unless I have the first sentence down, but if I also know how I’m going to end it before I write it – it ends up being among my best pieces of work and the words tend to just pour out.

    • Hey Lisa!
      Thanks for commenting! I’m the same exact way about intros. I’ve been told again and again to skip that first sentence and then write it last but I just can’t make myself do it—once I have that first sentence though, the piece tends to flow fairly well.
      I don’t think I’ve ever had my final sentence right at the start however. Typically I still write the last sentence last. Maybe I’ll have to give it a try.

  4. Beth Skw says:

    It wasn’t until I had to teach this that I figured out what a conclusion does. Here’s what I tell students, after asking them to phrase their topic in the form of a question:

    The intro is where you explain your question.

    The conclusion is where you explain the ANSWER to your question.

    With that in mind, you’ll never copy-and-paste the same paragraph in both places. (I’ve never done this, but in school I was always really tempted!) … this advice, once I figured it out, serves me well in my real-world writing too.

    • Hey Beth,

      I think that’s a great way of looking at it! Of course there is some difference between article writing and essay writing, but essentially the conclusion’s purpose stays the same. It’s to really bring home what to do about or how to respond to the problem mentioned in the intro.

      Thanks for sharing!!

    • Barb Tyler says:

      What an awesome explanation, Beth! I will have to remember that when I’m trying to explain conclusions to younger writers.

  5. Aldwin says:

    These are incredible! I find the names a bit funny tho. but of course, they’re witty. I hope I can absorb and apply all these in my writing too. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Ed says:

    Several times I’ve found myself floundering at the end of writing an article not quite knowing how to finish, so frequently I find that I completely rework the text just to make my conclusion or closing shots work.

    I’m going to try some of these suggestions when I find myself in this situation, and Beth makes an important point when it comes to writing in academia.

    • Thanks for the comment Ed. I’ve been there… and then I decided I was tired of my conclusions taking twice as long because of it so I made a point to study how others did conclusions… above are three ways I found that were pretty common but that worked like a charm in almost any situation.

      I hope they work just as well for you as they did for me!

      – Melissa

  7. Richard says:

    I like to use the burger method to structure my articles. I often find myself creating both ‘buns’ then adding the ‘meat’ before tweaking the conclusion (the bottom bun). This obviously varies depending on the subject.

  8. Thanks so much for these tips! I am terrible at wrapping things up at the end of articles, so your recommendations are much appreciated :)

  9. Ashlee Anderson says:

    I like the expert technique a lot as it seems to give you article ad thus you more credibility by attaching it to someone people respect. My feeling is if you are going to use this method, then the more respected the person who said or wrote the quote the better the effect will be.

    • Hey Ashlee,

      Thanks for the comment! I think talking to experts is a must for pieces that will be published in print; quoting someone is definitely a great way to leave off. Thanks for the feedback and for your comment!

      – Melissa

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