Writers spend hours tweaking the opening lines of an article or speech but give little thought to the ending.
News stories, media releases, and even most email messages have the least important information at the end, because that’s the appropriate structure. But for feature articles, many blog posts, and speeches, you don’t want the end to fizzle. A good ending unifies the piece. It not only conveys a sense of completion; it also is a chance to end with a bang, leaving the audience with an image or thought that sticks. It’s not unlike gift wrapping. You wrap up a speech or story and add a “bow,” a finishing touch, such as a punchy quote or a statement that momentarily rivets the audience’s attention and reverberates in the audience’s mind.
Ways to end a story or speech
Rather than dribbling to a close or stopping abruptly or awkwardly, consider these techniques:
- Summarize the central meaning of the message. You can come full circle by ending with a statement or example that connects to the main idea you presented at the beginning.
- Use a quote or a description that encapsulates the theme.
- End with a unusual quote that is compelling or humorous. It speaks for itself, echoes in the audience’s mind, and makes the message memorable.
- Make a thought-provoking statement that leaves people thinking.
What not to do when ending a speech
- Don’t ease into the close of a speech with a formulaic phrase such as “In conclusion, … .” That’s common at the end of a college essay but should not be in a speech. It’s a cliche
- Avoid repeating exactly what you stated in the opening of the speech. If you said it once, why say it twice? Use different words to rephrase the information, and perhaps add a new element.
- Urge the audience to take action, or not to.
Examples of effective endings
Tying the ending back to the beginning:
In a profile of a raspberry farmer’s first berry season, AP writer Nancy Shulins, a two-time Pulitzer nominee, said near the beginning of the story that the end of the season left the farmer feeling both happy and sad. “There’s both a sweetness and a tang to raspberries. I have always loved that dark taste,” he told her.
At the end of the story, Shulins connected back to the end-of-season theme that she opened with. His first great big beautiful raspberry summer was over, she wrote. It brought both a sweetness and a tang.
Ending with an effective quote:
For years, dozens of drug smugglers were arrested off the coast of Maine for bringing cargo ships of marijuana from South America. As soon as they were arrested, they called one particular defense attorney who had a reputation for success in drug cases.
In an AP profile of the lawyer, I ended with a quote from him that was tied to the theme but also contained a humorous twist on an old saying: “My parents always told me to work hard and my ship would come in. Well, I’ve had several.”