Ten Ways to Write a Conclusion

The conclusion of your essay is your last chance to make your point and to leave a lasting impression on your reader. Here are ten techniques you can use to write the end of your essay:

Use a Quotation: An apt quotation can eloquently remind the reader of your main point.

“If Sparta and Rome perished,” asked Rousseau, “what State can hope to endure forever?” The obvious answer is “no state” and that may be the right answer. The United States is not immortal and American preeminence is not inevitable. Yet, some states endure for extraordinary lengths of time, and little reason exists to assume that recent prophecies of American decline are more accurate than earlier ones… (Samuel P. Huntington, “The U.S. — Decline or Renewal?”)

Give a Summary: Briefly review your main points.

Working at McDonald’s has taught me a lot. The most important thing I’ve learned is that you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. I’ve learned to take this seriously – if you are going to run a business, you need to know how to do all the other jobs. I also have more patience than ever and have learned how to control my emotions. I’d like to have my own business someday, and working at McDonald’s is what showed me I could do that. (Marissa Nuñez, “Climbing the Golden Arches.”)

Depict a Vivid Image: Give a powerful image or metaphor to illustrate your main point.

A man who writes carelessly at once proves that he himself puts no great value on his own thoughts. For it is only by being convinced of the truth and importance of our thoughts that there arises in us the inspiration necessary for the inexhaustible patience to discover the clearest, finest, and most powerful expression for them; just as one puts holy relics or priceless works of art in silver or golden receptacles… (Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Authorship and Style”)

Tell the End of a Story: If you start your essay with a story, return to it in your conclusion.

Aisha now has a good job, her U.S. divorce is final and she says she is hopeful her Muslim divorce will be approved. For all her strides forward, Aisha is bittersweet about her independence. “I would always want a woman and man to build a happy home together. I believe whenever you get married, you never think of getting broken apart,” she said… (Annette Kondo, “Battered Immigrant Women Find Sanctuary.”)

Recommend Action: If you discuss a problem in your essay, propose a solution at the end.

An educated public opinion, freed from the legal and moral hounding of the prostitute, can alone help to ameliorate present conditions. Willful shutting of eyes and ignoring of the evil as a social factor of modern life can but aggravate matters. We must rise above our foolish notions of “better than thou” and learn to recognize in the prostitute a product of social conditions. Such a realization will sweep away the attitude of hypocrisy, and insure a greater understanding and more humane treatment… (Emma Goldman, “The Traffic in Women.”)

Connect Past and Present: Link something from history to contemporary life.

We have come full circle — back to Athens of the fifth century B.C. Our moral and political debates echo eerily and revealingly the exchanges between Socrates and Protagoras. Whether there is a moral order, whether we can have objective knowledge, whether the world is an expression of the Divine Mind or simply the ephemeral polyphony of atoms in the void—

these questions cannot be bracketed. Our moral and political order will deeply and inevitably reflect the answers we give to them. (John Lawrence Hill, After the Natural Law.)

Make a Surprising Statement: Surprise the reader with a startling fact or unexpected twist.

To escape is the greatest of pleasures; street haunting in winter, the greatest of adventures. Still, as we approach our own doorstep again, it is comforting to feel the old possessions fold us round. Here again is the usual door, here the chair turned as we left it and the china bowl and the brown ring on the carpet. And here—let us examine it tenderly, let us touch it with reverence—is the only spoil we have retrieved from all the treasures of the city: a lead pencil. (Virginia Woolf, “Street Haunting.”)

Discuss Implications: Consider the implications or questions raised by your essay.

I do not pretend to know how best to manage a program of heroin support. What would be the minimum age for patients? What degree of addiction would qualify them for free doses? How to measure success and failure of such an experiment? And could an experiment run long in one locale without attracting addicts from all over? The difficulties are obvious. But given the nation’s record with heroin, the risks of a new approach seem more tolerable every day. (Robert Curvin, “What if Heroin were Free.”)

Predict Future Events: Speculate as to how events will unfold, or warn of possible dangers.

If we—and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others—do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world. If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time! (James Baldwin, “Letter from a Region in my Mind.”)

Restate Your Thesis: Restate your thesis in a new way, or state it plainly for the first time.

I will conclude with a declaration which I will boldly maintain. It is this: Were a man able to write in seven languages, were he to entertain himself with all ancient and modern history, and could he feast continually on the curiosities which the different branches of learning may discover to him, all this would not afford the ravishing satisfaction which he might find in relieving the distresses of a poor miserable neighbor, nor would it bear any comparison with the heartfelt delight which he might obtain…by exerting his efforts to redress the miseries under which mankind is generally languishing (Cotton Mather, Essays to do Good.)