Conclusion paragraphs can be tricky to write, but a clear conclusion can sum up your main points and leave your reader with a clear sense of what to take away from your overall essay. Creating a strong essay means making sure that you have a clear introduction, several body paragraphs, and an equally strong conclusion. Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to write a conclusion paragraph, and then check out our library of conclusion worksheets to get plenty of practice in how to write a strong conclusion.
How to Write a Conclusion Paragraph
Choose Smooth Conclusion Transition Words
Your conclusion paragraph should begin with a smooth transition from the body of your essay. The first sentence of your paragraph should include clear transition words to signal to your reader that you are beginning to wrap up your essay. Different transition words can have different effects, so be sure to choose a transition word or phrase that clearly communicates that you are closing your essay. Some common examples of conclusion transition words and phrases include words / phrases like “in conclusion”, “to conclude”, “in summary”, “all things considered”, “ultimately”, “to sum up”, “in essence” and “in short”. Learn more about the different types of transition words.
Restate Main Points
Once you have signaled that you are drawing your essay to a close, you can then restate the main points of your essay. Depending on the length of your essay, this may be done in a single sentence, or it may require a few sentences. Be concise and clear; you should be able to summarize each main point in a simple phrase that avoids restating each detail and piece of evidence related to the point. Simply list off the points as a reminder to your audience about what they’ve just read.
Restate Your Argument
Finally, if you’re writing an argumentative essay, you’ll want to clearly restate your main argument in order to leave readers with one final appeal. If you have provided enough evidence along the way, this restatement should make readers feel as if you’ve persuaded them fully.
Call to Action
For some expository and argumentative essays, it’s appropriate to end with a call to action as your last sentence. For example, if you’re writing an informative essay about the sea creatures that live in the very deepest parts of the ocean, you may close with a sentence like this: “It’s clear that today’s scientists should continue to observe and document these mysterious creatures, so we may all learn more about life at the bottom of the ocean.” A call to action like this can make your reader feel inspired and informed after reading your essay.
What to Avoid with Conclusion Transitions
When writing a strong conclusion paragraph, you want to keep it simple. Use a clear transition word or phrase, restate your main points and argument, and possibly finish with a call to action. Be sure to avoid the following missteps:
- New Information. Your conclusion is not the place to introduce anything new. Simply restate and summarize the main points clearly.
- Personal Opinion. Unless you are writing an opinion piece that includes several “I” statements throughout, avoid ending your essay with a sudden “I think…” or “I feel…” If you haven’t been including your personal opinion throughout the essay, then you shouldn’t insert your opinion into the conclusion.
- Lots of Details. When you restate your main points, don’t worry about restating all the small details that make up your description or evidence. The place for details is in your body paragraphs. The conclusion is simply for summary and a possible call for action or next steps.
Check out our printable conclusion paragraph worksheets too!
So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
- Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes.
- Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise ofdehumanization"; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
- Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure, by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University