You have done your research, created a solid outline, and written an impressive draft. The information is solid, the organization clear. And yet, something’s not quite right. Deep down, you know what is missing. Living by the familiar expression, “If I don’t see them, they don’t exist,” you have convinced yourself that, if you don’t write it, it isn’t necessary.
Don’t live in fear of the big bad concluding sentence. Your time and effort deserve more than a highly organized list of facts. You need to bring your writing full circle and wrap up those loose ends. You need to write effective closing sentences.
Concluding sentences are like book ends.
People tend to dismiss what they believe to be irrelevant. I’ll admit that I do not always come to a full and complete stop at a stop sign if there are no other cars or people nearby; there is no need, so why bother? By this same reasoning, many people blithely disregard closing sentences in their essays. Let me offer a few other analogies that will help to put this into perspective:
Think of the closing sentence as the second bookend. One bookend supports the books from the starting point. The other one supports the books from the end. Without that second book end, the row would not be neat and tidy. The books would tumble, scattering all over the place in a messy heap. Like a bookend, your concluding sentence holds everything together.
Consider the closing sentence to be the last step in a cycle. A cycle starts with a beginning, then moves on to several consecutive functions, and finally finishes, before beginning all over again. No matter what cycle you choose—life cycle, seasonal cycle, water cycle—there is always an ultimate end, a form of completion.
Phone calls (my personal favorite)
When you first talk to someone on the phone, you say “hello” and ask about the person’s well-being. Then the conversation takes place, information is given and received, and plans are made (“I’m going to be in town on Thursday. Can you meet for coffee?”). At the end of that conversation, most people recap those plans (“So I’ll see you Thursday at noon.”) and say goodbye. It isn’t really necessary to recap. And goodbye is just a word. The dial tone would just as clearly tell someone that the conversation has ended! And yet, if you’ve ever finished your conversation without a recap, you may have taken a moment to review the plans just discussed. And if you’ve ever spoken to someone who hung up without saying goodbye, you may have felt a bit slighted. As you can see, those final words help to cement what has been discussed and end the conversation politely.
People often have the most difficulty formulating a closing sentence because it appears redundant. To a certain extent, that is true. Just consider the one hard-and-fast closing rule: Never provide new information in a closing sentence. Some of you may be thinking, “What about the other rule about not repeating information in an essay? If I’m not providing new information, then I must be repeating old information!” This is almost true. Read on to find out what I mean.
Step One: Return to the opening sentence
As demonstrated in the book end analogy, the concluding sentence is intimately paired with the opening sentence. This step follows an old adage: If you want to know where you’re going, you have to look at where you’ve been. So look at what your goal was for this paragraph. What was your original claim?
Step Two: Analyze the heart of the paragraph (The analogies just keep coming!)
The heart of your paragraph should have provided the details and proof that supported the opening sentence. Did you prove your point? Did you support your opener? How so? What information did you provide to support your opening statement?
Step Three: Summarize and apply
Yes, I said it: summarize. When creating your concluding sentence, consider this question: What should the reader take away from this paragraph? Here is where you write what it all comes down to. The opener gave the bare overview of your goal. By the conclusion, your reader should have a more detailed, intricate understanding of that goal. That take-away is what you provide in the concluding sentence.
Note: This same strategy can be used to write a concluding paragraph.
Sometimes an example is worth 747 words. Let’s dissect the following paragraph.
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The opening sentence gave you the main idea: The editors will take good care your document.
The details supported the claim, proving that those editors are capable of editing many types of documents in many formats.
The concluding sentence didn’t state anything new, but it provided more detail than the opening sentence. It combined the main idea with the details to complete the paragraph concisely.
In conclusion (no pun intended!):
You are now ready to confront concluding sentences without fear. Writing them isn’t really difficult; just tell the readers what you want them to conclude. In the end, by using concluding sentences, your writing will be much smoother.
What helps you to create concluding sentences? Do you have a different analogy?