Writing Effective Conclusions: How to Unify Essays with a Concluding Echo
Create Unity with the Concluding Echo
Improving student writing may be the English teacher’s greatest challenge. Young writers frequently have difficulty in two areas: writing good conclusions and creating a unified piece of writing. What if you could teach them a simple technique that helped solve both problems at once? Addressing these weaknesses is critical because in writing, as in life, it’s not always the first impression that makes something memorable, but often the last. If you would like to see your students, or even yourself, produce effective writing that readers won’t soon forget, consider leaving your reader with a powerful sense of your message by creating a unifying concluding echo.
Get Rid of the Old “Restatement” Conclusion
The concept of the concluding echo is nothing new. It is closely related to the old concluding technique that we probably all learned in middle school: restating the introduction. This technique has become more than a little worn out and abused. In fact, students have become to regard the idea of “restating” as something nearly synonymous with “repeating.” Needless to say, a conclusion like that doesn’t send a reader off with a very positive impression of the writer or his subject.
The problem is that many students struggle mightily with their conclusions, and the dilemma of how to sum up or restate without simply plagiarizing their own introduction has brought many a student essayist to a grinding, frustrated halt. But, by teaching and assigning the technique of the concluding echo below, you can give students a tool that will help them create better, even very good, conclusions that also help unify their essays.
It Starts with a Good Introduction
A conclusion with a good echo actually begins with the introduction. Since the point of the concluding echo is to create unity, writers must construct their introductions in such a way as to give them something brief to repeat, or echo, meaningfully in their conclusions. This can be a word, a few words, or a complete phrase, but nothing more. To be effective, it must be a word or phrase that carries significant meaning—not just any old words will do. Look at the following example of a concluding echo from an essay about the book Animal Farm. For our purposes, the body of the essay is omitted; we only need the introduction and conclusion. The key words that will form the echo appear in bold.
Introduction: Animal Farm isn’t really a story about animals. It’s a story about human beings and how they handle political power. Like many political and social movements, it begins with a lofty vision, a dream of a better future. What happens to that vision, and to the animals that trust their political leaders to follow that vision, is a story that is all too familiar to mankind.
Body: The body of this essay contained several paragraphs that described how the animal leaders began to abuse, persecute, and enslave the other animals on the farm.
Conclusion: The animals of Animal Farm found it easy to believe in the promise of the revolution. But the lofty vision and dream of a better future that inspired them to revolt was eventually used to enslave them. The animals, like so many people throughout history, didn’t realize what happened to them until it was too late.
See how it Works?
The short phrases “lofty vision” and “dream of a better future” appear in both the introduction and the conclusion (you would not use the bold type, of course). However, even though the words are repeated verbatim, their meaning has been altered, influenced by the content of the intervening paragraphs that we don’t see here. In the conclusion, the echoing words now take on an ironic tone that supports the contention that the leaders have used the animals for their own personal gain.
So teach your students a way to improve their conclusions. Once they get the hang of it, they’ll be grateful. After all, who wouldn’t want to create powerful writing that readers won’t soon forget?