Are endings hard for you?

Conclusions pose a great challenge for writers, and the pressure is real. An ending that dies on the page doesn’t go down without other causalities. A failed finale can ruin everything, even if all preceding content is superb.

Writers who don’t end well generally make three fatal mistakes:
• Overlooking the fundamental problem
• Losing sight of the communication’s purpose
• Not being strategic  

How to craft a robust conclusion:
A. Address shortcomings.
• Lacking Focus
Embarking without a clear sense of purpose, many writers wander aimlessly, failing to lead their audiences to a definitive and meaningful destination.
Example: You read an article with a promising premise and some noteworthy content, but reaching the conclusion, you can only wonder, What was the point of that!

• Taking Shortcuts
After investing (sometimes considerable) resources in developing material for the introduction and main section, some writers approach the final, downhill stretch and simply come crashing to an abrupt halt.
Example: You read to the end of an engrossing book only to find that the author has chosen the easy way out by killing all the main characters in an explosion. How exasperating!

• Repeating Ad Nauseam
After stating their case or pronouncing the punchline, many writers and speakers keep going instead of stopping when they were ahead.
Example: Upon gathering everything you need to know from a presentation, you tune out (and/or conjure negative thoughts about) the speaker, who seems to enjoy the sound of his/her own voice and doesn’t value your time. Enough said!

• Misreading the Audience
After relaying facts in a logical manner, many writers do not understand when to provide all the answers versus when to let readers think for themselves.
Example: Seeking the best option for removing old paint from antique furniture, you consult a do-it-yourself blog that describes three different methods but doesn’t divulge their advantages or disadvantages. Now what?
Example: You wanted to learn the straight facts surrounding a proposed, mixed-use commercial development, but upon reading an article in your local paper, you feel lectured on why the concept is a bad idea. No thanks!

B. Solidify fundamental goals.
• Entertaining – To please the audience
• Teaching – To educate on a subject; to give instructions
• Informing – To convey ideas, perspectives, experiences, etc.
• Persuading – To sell a product/service; to convince people to accept or believe something
• Motivating – To encourage certain behavior, perhaps for the audience’s own benefit
• Hooking – To compel a reader or listener to return for more, maybe the next installment

Goals are often multi-faceted. Many writers benefit from drafting an outline to stay on track.

C. Be certain about the overriding reason for any conclusion.
• Some conclusions summarize what came before:
For example, the director of a community food bank might design a presentation specifically to address civic organizations. Making people aware of what the charity does and aims to accomplish would be essential in garnering support. Presenting a strong conclusion would not just thank the audience for listening, nor would it rehash every statistic. Instead, it would more likely suggest tangible ways to help, such as donate nonperishables, write a check, or host a fundraiser.

• Other conclusions surround a plot and/or hint about what’s to come next:
For instance, an author might publish the introductory novel for a series that will carry the plot forward. Besides creating a satisfying ending for the first story, the writer might incorporate a hook that ignites readers’ curiosity to find out what happens in the next book. Another strategy would be to leave no loose ends regarding the initial plot yet establish a compelling premise and characters that generate demand for more stories.

Without question, clear goals will help you map out a plan for your content. In turn, you'll better guide your audience to the end by remaining focused.

Once you’ve led them to your intended destination, what will you give people to take away?

Before answering that question, strive to think in terms of what you’d say to any audience if it happened to be your final opportunity to communicate with them. Simply put, what do you want people to gather and remember from spending time with you?

My best to you,

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady

Thoughts or questions? Please contact Sallie Boyles, owner of Write Lady Inc., to exchange ideas about effective communications and gain from professional writing and editing services. Receive monthly tips and insights by subscribing at