The Essay Conclusion

Recap your main idea

If your essay was long and complex, sometimes difficult to follow, in the conclusion you’ll want to recap your ideas in a clear, summarizing manner. You want your readers to understand the message you intended to communicate. However, if your essay was short and simple, don’t insult your readers by restating at length the ideas they already understand. Strike a balance according to what you feel your readers need. In a short essay (600 words or less), any recapitulation should be brief (about 2 sentences), and rephrased in a fresh way, not just cut and pasted from the thesis.
Leave a memorable impression

It’s not enough just to restate your main ideas — if you only did that and then ended your essay, your conclusion would be flat and boring. You’ve got to make a graceful exit from your essay by leaving a memorable impression on the reader. You need to say something that will continue to simmer in the reader’s minds long after he or she has put down your essay. To leave this memorable impression, try . . .

  • giving a thought-provoking quotation
  • describing a powerful image
  • talking about consequences or implications
  • stating what action needs to be done
  • ending on an interesting twist of thought
  • explaining why the topic is important

Keep it short

Keep your conclusion short, probably ten lines or less, and avoid fluff. You’re just trying to make a clever exit, and presumably all the really important points have been made previously in your essay. You should not introduce any totally new ideas in the conclusion; however, you should not merely repeat your thesis either. This situation — not presenting anything new, and neither just sticking with the old — at first seems to be a paradox. However, with a little effort, one of the above six methods will usually yield “a quiet zinger,” as John Tribble calls it.

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