Finishing Strong – How to wrap up an article

picture-7Every writer knows creating a great lead (lede) is key to a great article. It piques an audience’s interest and pulls them in for you to deliver the goods. What some writers fail to realize is a good ending or conclusion is just as important.

We’ve all been there – one minute you’re reading a piece, zooming right along and then it just trails off… An article is not a novel, it shouldn’t have a cliffhanger.

When writing a newspaper article, there are a few set standards for finishing up a conclusion, such as a final quote. Features have more room for creativity. Unlike a news article (particularly with inverted pyramid style), the ending is not in danger of getting cut off by a copy editor because of space issues. Depending on the type of feature you’ve written, you need to decide what you want readers to take away from the piece.

Do you want to leave them with a thoughtful quote? What about the end of the story – what happens? What is likely to happen next? Is there an opportunity to provide an update or give them information to take action? Blogs will often end with a question to spur readers into commenting.

An article shouldn’t end simply because there is no more information. An article needs to end when the ‘W’s’ of writing are satisfied. The conclusion should leave the reader with something to think about and a sense of finality – as far as the article is concerned. They shouldn’t look at the bottom of the page for the next page arrow or a note on where the rest of the article picks up.

Is this article finished? Why or why not? If not, write a conclusion for it below! Got any tips on creating a great conclusion? Tell us below.

Comments

  1. I have to differ. I spent 13 years on daily newspapers, and have freelanced for a few since. Inverted pyramid style is journalism 101. Sometimes a photo, headline, or just bad pagination/layout will knock out a bottom paragraph or two. Or will cut before it hits that process. Editors don’t have time to search for a few lines to cut here and there. They will tend to cut from the bottom (after some tightening).

    By the way, I was a defacto editor (due to union issues, the paper wouldn’t name me as such, but I handled all the duties) for a couple of years and had to make these decisions.

    However, I do agree with the premise about features. They tend to have more time for editing, but even there, a final paragraph can get cut.

    • Hey Phil,

      Hmmm…I think I was basically saying the same thing – that editors, both copy and section will drop the last paragraph or two for space which includes photos & whatnot. And we have a lot of newbies on the site, including those new to journalism and putting the inverted pyramid reference was more for them. I don’t believe I implied that there is more time for editing features – though there usually is – I was speaking more on how the article’s conclusion is less likely to be dropped for space issues.

  2. The last paragraph could be an excellent opportunity for that call to action, from a marketing perspective.

  3. Terreece,

    Absolutely true. When I was teaching essay writing as a part of my English classes, I always stressed that writing should leave the reader with a final thought or question — something that gets him or her to keep thinking about your argument even after it’s over.

    If you’re afraid people are going to move on to the next thing without stopping to think about what you’ve said, concentrate on how you finish.

  4. Terreence – The inverted pyramid was designed for the print world, making it easy for editors to cut from the bottom and not risk deleting any important information. The risk when print journalist move online is mistaking all the added room for a reason to get sloppy with structure.

    I always remember to think in essay form and try to use the last couple grafs to tie the conclusion back into my lede or nutgraf.

    Along with tying your conclusion back into the overall theme, nonfiction online writers need to think short and too-the-point. This will also ensure people read every word you’ve written.

  5. I come from a newspaper background, so I was thinking the exact same thing that Phil wrote. The copy editors always cut from the bottom first! Of course, if you stick to your word or column inch limit, that’s less likely to happen.

    But for online articles or other articles that don’t have such strict space requirements, I’m a big fan of a great sum-it-all-up quote. And also a “for more information, visit http://www.greatwebsiteformoreinfo.com” that will give the reader the opportunity to read more about the subject at hand.

    “And that’s my favorite way to wrap up a story,” said writer Jennifer Larson.

  6. Terreece,

    I am a decent writer and would like to get into the freelance industry-especially after seeing the film Rules of Play. But the only experience I have is a single article I wrote for my university’s paper. I was told it was ok but I would like to make a supplemental income from the craft.

    Any advice, any one?

    Peace

  7. Got some newspaper writers here, huh? Doesn’t work the same way with monthly magazines.

    Thanks!

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