How to Weave an Elegant Ending into Your articles
How do great writings end?
The award-winning journalist Starshine Roshell said of the ending of any great piece: “A well-written article shouldn’t just drop off at the end like there may have been more but it fell off a cliff.” I am not to point fingers because I was guilty of making this unfortunate fall in my work for a very long time. But not anymore.
Anyone that has been publishing for a while knows that nothing is too big or too small when it comes to writing. They know that too well as they know the back of their hands.
Changing the angle your writing takes can be the difference between going viral and having a few reads. Rephrasing a sentence in your piece can land you a book deal — okay, maybe too far. The truth, nonetheless, remains that nothing is insignificant, and especially not the ending.
A while ago, I remember struggling to form the perfect headlines, to create stunning introductions, and to maintain a dazzling flow. These all got easier with time. What remains both fairly hard and amazing to play with, however, is the ending. The fall we sometimes make in the ending of our articles — as Starshine put it and as I later realized — was indeed like that from a cliff.
It is an unfortunate truth that most of your readers will bail out reading your piece midway. Why bother writing an excellent ending then, right?
“While not everyone makes it to the end of every piece,” said Jason Shen, “the ones who do matter much more.” These are people more invested in your work, and likely to retain and remember your message. If you’re lucky, they might even share it with their friends on Twitter.
Ending your writing on a high note will have a greater effect on these loyal folks. So we owe it to them (and ourselves) to make it as striking as it can be.
There isn’t a formula for writing the perfect article, ending inclusive. But just like we all can agree on any write-up to be clear enough for the intended message to be conveyed, so should an ending be punchy enough to have a lasting and powerful impression on the reader.
Endings are only perfect or not, depending on your research, the type of the piece you’re working on (feature, interview, or news articles), your audience, or even the platform you aim to publish it on. This is a creative advantage that becomes easier when you have a variety of options to derive the right inspirations.
Here, I am sharing the elements that can easily fit in almost any kind of non-fiction writing — with helpful examples from amazing writers and credible sources. Let’s get to it.
Humans keep making breakthrough inventions, and the main determinant remains their unsatisfied curiosity. At the heart of every curious mind are unanswered questions. Dropping the right question at the right place in your article can be the necessary magic needed to spellbind your reader. This right place can also be the last sentence.
One of the best write-ups I read this year is by Niklas Göke, published on Medium and titled: The 7 Kinds of True Freedom. His first sentence asked the question, “What is freedom?” Then went on to explain it in seven distinct layers. It is only justice if I quote his closing paragraphs:
There are infinite definitions of freedom, but the ones that matter most are your own. Unlike your mind wants you to believe, however, none of them are obvious. The only way to find them is to keep asking the question, now and forever.
So let’s try this again: What is freedom?
I don’t know about you, but this jolted me to think of what freedom truly means on a whole deeper level. Your question should have a similar effect on the reader. No one is demanding you knock them off their chairs, although that’d be cool too.
Recap the main point(s)
This is the most common way of ending an article, and often the easiest. It is recapping the main points shared in your article, especially if the article is long or the points scattered about. It can range from a single sentence, bulleted points, to a few paragraphs.
It takes an effort to make a summarized ending sounds fun, and not like the little sounds my cousin made whenever she consults me about reviewing a service online.
An example of an ending with a beautiful summary is in a recently published piece I saw on The New York Times, written by one Michelle Goldberg, titled: Can Mitch McConnell Be Stopped?
It doesn’t matter how exhausted we are, or how difficult the odds. In this hell-spawned year, we can either give up, or give everything we can to stop some of America’s worst men from blotting out the legacy of one of our very best women.
Perfect! The reader can easily see what the writer thinks of stopping McConnell, even if all they did was wander through the entire piece.
Inject an anecdote
We are still the descendants of the same foragers that sit around the fire listening to stories at night. Nothing’s changed in that regard, but that isn’t the only reason we love stories.
“People don’t think in terms of information — they think in terms of narratives,” said the author Jonah Berger, “but while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.”
Everybody loves a compelling story, and that is why you should consider ending your piece with an anecdote.
The only problem with this is when the narrative has nothing to do with the central idea of your piece. It wouldn’t be convenient if, for instance, you end your piece with how your girl left you for a richer guy if you were writing about the Hogwarts Legacy game in the new PlayStation — except, of course, if you can relate the two which seems impossible from where I am standing.
Another great way to end your writing with an anecdote is to complete a story you began in the opening sentences of your piece, by circling back and completing it.
Her empathy made my head hurt. Her words were confusing. I’d spent years constructing narratives about her based on empty statements from our ex. And again, I was wrong.
“Thank you for loving my kids. They love you too. I hope you know that.”
I walked to my car, laughing. I wonder if I’m in for a lifetime of alternating weekends with Marie.
Dani began telling this story with a glimpse of the ending. She then deviated, by letting each point flows into the next and finally taking us back to the beginning for full effect. She kept us engaged throughout her piece, and this ending is her way to justify her hold of our attention. It did justify it. You should consider trying this. It is fun.
Quote a relevant authority
There isn’t anything wrong with ending your article by quoting Dr. Seuss. It is just that sometimes he might not be the perfect fit, and as powerful as his words are, they might end up hurting your story in such cases. This is probably why others see it as a cliché to end an article with a quote.
A few days back, two writers published a piece Why French Politicians Can’t Stop Talking About Crime on The New York Times. Here’s how they ended it:
Asked why the official data belied a surge in crime, Mr. Olivier, of the far-right National Rally, accused the French government of doctoring the real figures since the 1970s.
“At all levels, the numbers are being doctored. We’re like children who cover our eyes and the reality disappears,” he said. “But I’m going tell you, we don’t give a damn about the quarrel over the numbers. Fundamentally, these are sandbox quarrels.”
It is not Dr. Seuss, yet, relevant and compelling enough to leave us satisfied. Next time you feel like ending an article about the effect of journalism in your local community, consider quoting a journalist two blocks from yours and not necessarily someone renowned. The effect in blending this originality into your work might surprise you.
Point to the future
There is no telling on the number of times I devour on a blog after reading a single article — no, I wasn’t planning so. And I am sure we all have similar stories.
I am going to use Nik’s The 4 Smartest Ways to Become Smarter as an example. The title said everything about the story, so here’s the last paragraph:
If you did just these four things, you’d already learn much faster than most of the people around you. Imagine what you could do if you made time to do them deliberately — but that’s a story for another day.
Articles with endings like the above tend to invite the reader to explore more of the writer’s works or what is being published on the blog. They point to the future. Think of this like saying, “You know, what? There are more where this came from, and expect even more in the future.” — ohh, I am excited too.
By all means, do what you trust is right in ending your article even if it means mixing and matching the patterns. I will prioritize elegance over any rule, every damn time — as you should too, my dear friend. Be flexible.
You can also get better in this by paying close attention to how great writings end, whatever your definition of great writing is.
Remember, however, that the reader is a passenger in the ride that is your mind. You’d be surprised at how far they’re willing to go in rewarding you for not driving them off any cliff in this ride. Drive safe. Whatever it takes.