"That's All, Folks" A conclusion paragraph is no big deal
A conclusion paragraph is usually more subtle than just saying,
"The End," but its whole purpose is to let readers know
the essay is over.
Writers should not give the impression they were interrupted and
forgot to write an ending. They certainly shouldn't make the readers
wonder, "Did I lose the the last page of the manuscript?"
The only thing writers must do in the final paragraph is
give readers a sense that the essay is finished. How they
choose to do that is entirely up to them.
Conclusion is not a thesis
A significant number of my students have had serious problems understanding
what they were supposed to do in the final paragraph of their essays.
The problem turned out to be terminology.
When English teachers used the word conclusion, students
thought they were referring to a deduction that the writer
reached after considering all the relevant evidence.
That impression led students to the false idea that the proper way
to write an essay was to write an introduction and body paragraphs
in hopes of discovering an idea for the essay by the time they
had written four or five paragraphs.
What students were doing, in effect, was writing an essay to
discover their thesis
When their essays turned out badly, they blamed their English
teacher. After all, she was the one who insisted they write a
Prevent such misunderstandings.
Protect your reputation.
Refer to the last paragraph of a paper as its ending
paragraph unless you are talking about one of the rare situations
where a paper ends by drawing deductions from the evidence presented
in the body.
That terminology will make it far easier for students to learn
that they must build their thesis
before they write even one paragraph.
Make a quick end
The conclusion paragraph usually begins by echoing the thesis
statement that ends the
introduction. The writer then adds just enough more to make
readers feel the essay is finished.
No matter how writers choose to end their essays, they should end
them swiftly. In a 500-word essay, the final paragraph is perhaps
25-50 wordsa couple of sentences will do it.
Don't repeat unnecessarily
Writers rarely need to restate the thesis in a standard
five paragraph essay. If a writer does a halfway decent job, most
readers can remember the thesis for as many minutes as it takes
them to read the introduction and three body paragraphs.
(Some really bright teachers can remember a thesis for as
long as it takes to read a five-page paper. Wow!)
Similarly, writers rarely need to reiterate their main points
in their closing paragraphs. Of course, evidence should be restricted
to the body paragraphs so it never, ever appears in a closing paragraph.
Your time is too valuable to spend much of it teaching students
how to write a conclusion. Even dummies can write two sentences
that give a sense of ending to an essay; thats all anyone
I gave up trying to teach beginning writing students how
to write a conclusion paragraph years ago. I do, however, talk
about ways of writing introductions and conclusions. (Talking is
not the same thing as teaching.) If I have a batch of creative students,
we sometimes play with creating introductions and conclusions for
The only real teaching I do about endings for essays I do when
reading comprehension. Then I draw attention to how various
writers end their work.
I don't mean looking just at how short story writers and novelists
end their pieces. I mean examining things like the endings of units
in the students' language arts text. That's a no-hassle way for
you to deal with conclusion paragraph writing, too.
Examining texts will help the brighter, more verbal students
see how to write a better closing paragraph. At the same time,
it will help the dummies get the point of the reading.
Informal writing questions answered
Learning, Reshape Teaching, I answer 24 questions teachers at all levels
and in all content areas ask about informal writing.
The ebook shows informal prompts on writing mechanics topics and discusses
them to help teachers foster and monitor learning.