Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Writing Conclusions for Essays and Speeches

A tiny man stands trying not to be crushed by giant books on a bookshelf.
Need help learning how to write a conclusion for your essays and speeches?

In order to give your audience a sense of closure at the end of a speech or essay, you must smoothly incorporate some closing thoughts that will help your audience remember your main point.  

A conclusion can be as simple as a reiteration of your main point, theme, or thesis statement, but there are several other "exit strategies" you can use to accomplish closure.  The most important thing to remember is that the conclusion should be "direct, clear, and effective" (Shaw 84).  In other words, when you are done proving your point, end the essay or speech with as few words as possible to help the audience remember your message.

Conclusion Strategies

A great list of conclusion strategies is provided in Susan Anker's text, Steps to Writing Well (87-88). Some of those concluding strategies include 

  • A summary of main ideas
  • A statement of the topic's importance or its broader implications
  • A call to action
  • A warning or forecast about the essays' stated problem
  • A quotation, lesson, or story that adds insight to your position
  • A rhetorical question
  • A play on words
  • A return to the technique used in the introduction of the essay or attention-getter of the speech.

Advice about Conclusions

More than knowing there are several strategies you can use to end your essay or speech, you must know how to use them.

First, in order to find the best strategy for your specific essay or speech (based on its mode, topic, and tone), prepare several different conclusions and choose the best. Next, get feedback from others during the revision process.  Be aware of some pitfalls, however.  Be respectful to your audience and maintain a professional tone.  Furthermore, Anker advises students that although transitional words and phrases are useful in essays and speeches, the use of "In conclusion," "To summarize," or "As you can see, my thesis proves that . . . " is not necessary (90). In an essay, a new paragraph and a strongly stated concluding strategy will clearly indicate to your reader that you are ending your essay.  A meaningful pause and vocal inflections can indicate to your speech's audience that you are wrapping up your speech.

In Conclusion,

The conclusion of a speech or essay is your last chance to allow your words to make a lasting impression on your audience.  Abrupt or non-topical endings, just like rambling, wordy, or pompous endings, will generally "turn off" an audience, thereby weakening your message.  It's all about the message. 

Want to read more about making your speeches and essays more effective?  Try

Works Cited

Wyrick, Jean. "Beginnings and Endings." Steps to Writing Well with Additional Readings. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2011. 87-90. Print.

Shaw, Harry. "Writing the Whole Theme." A Complete Course in Freshman English. 2nd Revised ed. New York: Harper & Bros., 1949. 85-86. Print.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

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