Conclusion in Compositions

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

sign conclusion
"In conclusion--the phrase that wakes up the audience" (Herbert Prochnow). (Lluis Real/Getty Images)

In composition, the term conclusion refers to the sentences or paragraphs that bring a speech, essay, report, or book to a satisfying and logical end. Also called the concluding paragraph or closing.

The length of a conclusion is generally proportional to the length of the whole text. While a single paragraph is usually all that's required to conclude a standard essay or composition, a long research paper may call for several concluding paragraphs.


From the Latin, "to end"

Methods and Observations

  • "Strong conclusions generally have four things in common:
    - They summarize the discussion.
    - They are concise.
    - They carry conviction.
    - They are memorable."
    (Kristin R. Woolever, About Writing: A Rhetoric for Advanced Writers. Wadsworth, 1991)

Strategies for Concluding an Essay

  • "Although there are no set formulas for closing, the following list presents several options:(X.J. Kennedy et al., The Bedford Reader. Bedford Books, 1999)
    1. Restate the thesis of your essay, and perhaps your main points.
    2. Mention the broader implications or significance of your topic.
    3. Give a final example that pulls all the parts of your discussion together.
    4. Offer a prediction.
    5. End with the most important point as the culmination of your essay's development.
    6. Suggest how the reader can apply the information you have just imparted.
    7. End with a bit of drama or a flourish. Tell an anecdote, offer an appropriate quotation, ask a question, make a final insightful remark."

    Three Guidelines

    • "[S]ome separate guidelines [about conclusions] may be valuable.
      1) Before closing your essay, always look back at your introduction and then make sure that you say something fresh and/or express yourself in a different way. . . .
      2) Short conclusions are usually preferable to long ones. . . .
      3) If possible, conclude your argument in a way that makes explicit insights that have been implicit along the way."
      (Richard Palmer, Write in Style: A Guide to Good English, 2nd ed. Routledge, 2002)

      Circular Closing

      • "This strategy works on the analogy of a circle, which ends where it began. The final paragraph repeats an important word or phrase prominent in the beginning, something the reader will remember. If the strategy is to work, the reader has to recognize the key term (but of course you cannot hang a sign on it--'Remember this'). You must stress it more subtly, perhaps by position or by using an unusual, memorable word."
        (Thomas S. Kane, The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing. Berkley Books, 2000)

      Two Sorts of Endings

      • "Someone has said that there are only two sorts of endings, the fanfare (da-da!) and the dying fall (plub-plub-plew). It's true. You can try to avoid these alternatives by cutting your writing off abruptly--ending it without an ending so to speak. But this sort of ending is also a kind of dying fall. Dying fall endings are more subtle and various than fanfares because all fanfares sound alike. But don't be squeamish about using a fanfare when one seems warranted.

        "This ending is a dying fall."
        (Bill Stott, Write to the Point: And Feel Better About Your Writing, 2nd ed. Columbia University Press, 1991)

      Composing a Conclusion Under Pressure

      • "Even though the conclusion is the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae, you may not have a lot of time to formulate one if you're writing under exam conditions. In fact, on the actual AP exam, you may not get to the conclusion at all. Don't worry; you can still do well if your essay stops abruptly. If you do have a moment, however, you can impress the exam grader with a short but powerful conclusion."
        (Geraldine Woods, AP English Literature & Composition For Dummies. Wiley, 2008)

        Last Things First

        • "If I didn't know the ending of a story, I wouldn't begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph, my last page first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I'm going. I know what my goal is. And how I get there is God's grace."
          (Katherine Anne Porter, interviewed by Barbara Thompson Davis. Paris Review, Winter-Spring, 1963)

        Pronunciation: kon-KLOO-zhun