Thursday, February 16, 2012

The End!

No matter how badly you want to end your paper with the ever popular "The End!" I beg you, please reconsider. Also, please refrain from using the following "End is near" signal phrases: In conclusion, To wrap this up, In summation, Let me reiterate, and Finally...

Yeesh, those are incredibly boring to read and also a teeny bit insulting to your reader who probably knows, or at least hopefully knows, that this last paragraph is indeed the end of the paper. Plus, you are super smart and don't need to resort to old cliche to note the end of your work.

What's that you say? You thought that you were always supposed to signal the end of your paper with these key phrases? Well, I reckon at one point in time that is how things were done. Not anymore. Face it: we have gotten fancy.

The conclusion is a form of writing that could be best described as an In and Out Burger Joint: You get in, you get out, you're satisfied. Or in writing terms you re-emphasize your point, again try to be catchy as you were in your introduction, and leave your reader with the feeling that the time they spent reading your paper was worth it and your words were memorable.

Nothin to it! .... You're with me, right?

Here's the thing: I know you aren't. I seem to be one of the few people who adore writing conclusions (intros too! It's the middle part that I struggle with). I have spent some time over the past several weeks working with some students on conclusions, and their most common complaint is that, "I feel like I just said all of this stuff already!" Well, if you wrote a good paper, you did mention all that stuff. So, valid point. BUT remember, really good points are worth repeating. Another frequently used argument is, "I just don't know how to end it." Well, you do. You're just at the end of the project and worn out. Don't fret ... it happens. Take a moment and step away from it--have a soda and then revisit.

If you are still struggling remember the basic definition of a conclusion: Conclusions sum up what you have been writing about in your paper.

I'm going to do a little bit of modeling for you and show you a conclusion that I recently wrote for a paper on Macbeth. (Don't be bored! It will be painless)


A culture that was familiar with the evils of prophecy, possibly Howard and Scot's articles, and the law would be unable to miss the obvious seduction of Macbeth by tempting yet unnatural and unlawful prophetic witches. If Macbeth is viewed through the lens of Scot and Howard and the conversation of the time period, it is impossible not to view Macbeth as a character who falls prey to temptation. A study in Macbeth's psyche could perhaps tell the audience more about his reasons for believing and passionately acting upon the prophecy, but with the limited amount of information we as readers/scholars/viewers are given the idea that Macbeth is a man who strays from the Divine and follows the devil's familiars is impossible to ignore. Macbeth's folly is his desire to know what only God can, but is that not the folly of man?

Whew. Still with me? Did you notice what I did?

First of all I didn't say: In conclusion, etc. I referred back to the culture that I had mentioned in the intro and middle of my paper (I guess you just have to trust me on that), I reiterated some points that I had made in my paper--didn't flat out state them again but instead I changed the way that I had written them before (which of course you don't know, but believe it), and then I ended with a line that reminded my reader of my thesis statement, which was that Macbeth's greatest evil was being tempted by the devil because he wanted to know the future. The ending of my conclusion is also provocative enough to leave my reader thinking and wanting to learn more, argue, or write about the amazing point I made in my paper.

Another fun trick is to end a conclusion by using a bit of humor (as long as that humor is paper/audience appropriate) or at least try to be entertaining--it's almost like a "thank you" to your reader. Just as you grabbed them with your super fabulous introduction that Doug Urbanski blogged about at the beginning of the week, you want to snag them again with your conclusion. What better way to do that then use a little bit of humor? Is this the time to bust out your best "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke? It depends on the paper topic and your best judgement. And if you're cracking "Chicken Cross the Road" jokes, I think that comedy might not be your forte.

Writing the conclusion does not have to be frustrating. What you write is important so don't be afraid to emphasize your valuable message! When you feel that you can't possibly write anymore--have that soda! If you can add something humorous, something that will make your reader smile. Perhaps revisit a snarky pun you made in your introduction? The End.

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