A Rabble-Rouser’s Rules for Writing Kick-Ass Closing Paragraphs

image of rabble rouser and crowd

Phew.

You’ve nearly finished your blog post.

You’ve gathered your most useful tips. You look forward to your readers’ comments. This might be your best post ever. Yay!

But you can’t hit “Publish” yet … you still need to write a final paragraph.

You stare out of the window for inspiration. You reread your post. Nothing comes to mind.

Sigh.

What more is there to say?

You don’t want your post to fizzle out with a few drab sentences. A bland paragraph at the end could wreck your whole blog post.

But how can you come up with something truly inspirational?

It’s time to channel your inner rabble-rouser

You might think that inspiring your readers has to do with talent or charisma. That you either got it or you don’t. But this is far from the truth.

Inspiring your readers simply requires you to follow a few simple rules.

Let’s start with an example.

Below, follow the last paragraphs of what’s perhaps the most inspirational post ever published on Copyblogger: On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas by Jon Morrow.

If you want to succeed, you can’t wait for the world to give you attention the way a cripple waits for food stamps to arrive in the mail. You have to be a warrior. You have to attack with the madness of a mother whose child is surrounded by an army of predators.

Because, let’s face it, your ideas are your children. Their future is as tender and delicate as that of any newborn.

You can’t just write them down and expect them to succeed. Writing isn’t about putting words on the page, any more than being a parent is about the act of conception. It’s about breathing life into something and then working to make sure that life becomes something beautiful.

That means spending ten hours on a post, instead of 30 minutes.

That means writing a guest post every week, instead of one every few months.

That means asking for links without any shame or reservation, not because you lack humility, but because you know down to the depths of your soul that what you’ve done is good.

You have to realize that your blog is more than just a collection of ones and zeros floating through cyberspace. It’s more than the words on the page. Your blog is a launchpad for your ideas, and you are the rocket fuel that lifts them off the ground.

So burn it up, baby.

Your ideas are counting on you.

Wanna write a final paragraph as inspirational as Jon’s?

It’s easier than you might think. Just follow the five rules for rabble-rousing bloggers, as outlined below.

Rabble-rouser rule #1: Address your reader

Jon’s post tells us the story of how his mother fought for his life after he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. But the final paragraphs of the post aren’t about Jon.

Jon addresses you, as the reader, directly. He compares his mother’s fight for his life with your fight for your ideas.

When you next sit down to write a closing paragraph, think about your ideal reader. Picture her reading your post. What would you like her to do next?

Your conclusion isn’t about you, your life, or your experience as a blogger. To inspire your reader, you need to address him directly, personally.

Rabble-rouser rule #2: Shrink the change

To get your readers to take action, you need to offer advice that’s concrete and doable.

If Jon had just told us to fight for our ideas, his post wouldn’t have been so inspirational. But he provides us with concrete actions we can undertake next week, tomorrow, or even today: spend ten hours on a post; write a guest post every week; and ask for links without any shame or reservation.

In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath call this “to shrink the change.” To get people to act, you don’t suggest big goals or massive behavior changes. Instead, provide suggestions that don’t require much time. Focus on small wins first.

Rather than tell couch potatoes to run a marathon, get them to walk 20 minutes a day first. Rather than tell business owners to create an all-singing, all-dancing content strategy, take a first step or commit to a straightforward task.

Rabble-rouser rule #3: Take away the biggest obstacle

What’s the biggest obstacle your reader faces? What prevents him from taking action?

Many bloggers might feel their ideas aren’t worth fighting for — this is the point Jon touches on several times in his conclusion. He tells us our ideas are tender like a newborn baby, that our ideas are counting on us, that writing is about breathing life into something, and that you are the rocket fuel that lifts your ideas off the ground.

When you think about your ideal reader, consider what blocks her from taking action. A few options:

  • If she’s feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start, remind her of the first step she should take. This is especially true if your post is long, if the task seems big, or if you’ve shared a series of tips.
  • If she lacks confidence in her ability to take action, acknowledge that the road ahead might not be easy and give her a pep-talk. Tell her she can do it.
  • If she feels it’s too much trouble to take action, then remind her of the bliss she’ll find when she implements your advice. Why will she feel happier, more relaxed, or more productive?

The biggest mistake you can make with your conclusion is rambling on. You have to prioritize. Focus on taking away the biggest obstacle to implementing your advice.

Rabble-rouser rule #4: Touch your reader’s heart

Inspiring people isn’t just about presenting the facts.

Facts influence our mind, but not our heart. To take action we need to be touched.

We all know that smoking is bad. We all know that we need to eat fruit and veggies. We all know we need to exercise more regularly. But when we don’t feel the need, we find it hard to change ingrained habits.

You may think that change happens by analyzing a situation, thinking about a solution, and then implementing change. But Chip and Dan Heath suggest that change often starts with seeing and feeling:

You’re presented with evidence that makes you feel something. It might be a disturbing look at the problem, or a hopeful glimpse of the solution, or a sobering reflection of your current habits, but regardless, it’s something that hits you at the emotional level. ~ Chip and Dan Heath

Notice how Jon talks about your ideas being tender and delicate as a newborn and how you should attack with the madness of a mother whose child is surrounded by an army of predators. By using emotional words Jon makes you experience the need to fight for your ideas.

To invigorate your audience, don’t just share facts, provide tips, and suggest actions. Tug at your reader’s heart.

Rabble-rouser rule #5: Nail your last line

Have you ever noticed how the taste of a delicious sorbet or pistachio ice cream lingers in your mouth for hours after you’ve finished your meal?

Killer last lines linger in your audience’s mind for hours or perhaps days.

Jon attracts attention to his last sentences by changing the rhythm of his writing. After a few long sentences, he switches to shorter lines. And he frames his words with white space to attract extra attention. He even adds a dash of alliteration with burn and baby.

Killer last sentences are like sound bites. They are nuggets of wisdom that communicate the essence of your idea with power and flair. Often they use poetic techniques — like rhythm, rhyme, or repetition — to make words smooth and memorable.

Let’s look at another example. These are the last lines of my post about becoming an influential writer:

Write less. Read more.

Talk less. Listen more.

Again the sentences are framed with white space, and they attract attention with their staccato-like rhythm. These sentences also use repetition and contrast (more vs less).

Sound bites are sticky. They keep singing in your readers’ minds, reminding them to get off their butt and implement your advice.

The truth about your final paragraphs …

Your job as a blogger is not simply to write tutorials.

Your job is not to share tips and facts and advice.

A useful tip that’s not implemented is like a riveting book that’s never opened. It’s forgotten and useless.

You’re not simply a blogger. You’re a mentor for your readers, a chief of your village, a leader of your tribe.

Come on. Fire up your tribe. Jump-start their actions.

Your readers are waiting for you.

Editor’s note:

This blog post is based on a chapter of Henneke’s new book Blog to Win Business: How to Enchant Readers and Woo Customers. Download your copy today.

Flickr Creative Commons Image by torbakhopper

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent marketer and copywriter on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to add sparkle to boring business blogs. For more writing tips, join her Enchanting Marketing newsletter.

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Comments

  1. It’s easy to get trapped into the same old closing paragraph. I know I’m guilty. If I’m selling something, I ask them to buy. Otherwise, I usually ask for comments.

    Thanks for the great example and for giving me some ideas for alternative closings. (In fact, I’d love to see more examples of great closings.)

    • Great idea. Maybe an opportunity for another post some time?

    • I agree with you Laura, that ending is really a great example. It is so powerful that I felt I do not have to read the body and opening paragraph for me to be inspired.

      It was inspiring.
      It was compelling.

      Jef

    • You stole the words right out of my mouth.

      I was going to say…

      “Case in point, your closing.”

      I’ve been viewing closing paragraphs more and more NOT as a closing but AS the crescendo themselves, with the close to occur in the comments or if really popular…in a future post.

  2. This deserves to be spread far and wide. A super demonstration of what you’re preaching about. Well done and inspirational, too. Thanks!

  3. A powerful close is what people walk away with. They may not remember much of your copy, but they will remember the ending if you make it resonate. I love the technique that pastor T.D. Jakes uses. All throughout his sermons he makes one powerful point over and over. Usually a quote or a phrase. He hammers it home and then closes with a bang, with the main point front and center. You may not remember the subtleties of his message but you will remember his key phrase.

  4. I have found that when writing copy, the most important parts to copy-writing are the headline and the emotive call to action (usually placed in the conclusion).

    “The secret of man’s success resides in his insight into the moods of people, and his tact in dealing with them.” -J. G. Holland

  5. Synchronicity? I was struggling to wrap up a post when I got your email :)

    I think that my biggest take away from your post is “Rabble-rouser rule #4: Touch your reader’s heart” as I have a tendency to get serious and “moral of the story is” at the end of a post and who needs that? LOL

    I want touch my reader’s heart yet keep it uplifting and fun!

  6. Develop your own emotional style that your tribe adores.
    And be creatively inspiring in closing paragraphs.

  7. Really great tips.. I like number 4 and I “love” number 5.. I would have never thought to end my post with quotes.. Thanks

  8. Excellent Article! Thank you so much for sharing. I find that I’ve been instinctively doing a number of these anyway, so this article makes a valuable and instinctively comfortable final checklist. Nice :-)

  9. Wow! Great article! I honestly never thought of these ideas and I loved the link to the article on how to visualize your perfect reader! So useful!
    For some reason when I clicked on the Facebook icon, it came up page not found with a gorgeous photo of Paul Newman (Thank you for that! Made my day!) BUT it also happened when I copied the url and tried to paste it to FB. Just thought I should let you know. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these articles!
    XO Chris

  10. This is great advice. I always have trouble finding the words to close an article, and rule #3 is very helpful. I’ll try it out on my next post! Thanks!

  11. Honestly, closing paragraphs can sometimes be the hardest to write. You don’t want to introduce anything new so it’s necessarily going to be rehash/summary, but you know that if someone has read that far into your article you can’t leave them hanging with a horrible ending. But then you also know that your headline/intro paragraph will get so many more eyes on them so you really don’t want to spend too much time on the final paragraph–it’s not a novel or story, after all, where the tension builds, it’s the inverse pyramid where all the good stuff happens at the top–but you don’t want to neglect it either.

    In conclusion, closing paragraphs are tough.

  12. Yep, they can be tough. But you can introduce something new in your closing paragraph.

    You’re not writing an academic essay in which you’re supposed to sum up your key points.

    You just have to ensure that your final paragraph logically follows the previous paragraph, and that it’s inspirational of course.

  13. That really is some kick-ass advice! Thanks, Hennke!

    I definitely agree that it helps to have a call-to-action at the end of a post. Sometimes something as simple as asking a question is enough to trigger a good set of responses.

    But if your goal is to trigger an action, you must show how it is possible to do, not just say it is. I thought that was a good point you added. Thanks again for writing this! I liked it.

  14. Wow Henneke! You’ve done it again.

    You’ve been pumping out some awesome stuff over the last few weeks.

    You’re everywhere I turn! Congratulations on an awesome post!!! I got a lot out of it.

    BTW I’m reading “Made to stick” by Dan and Chip Heath. Jon Morrow suggested I read it.

    It’s a great book. Have you read it?

    • Yes, I’ve been working almost non-stop recently :)

      Made to Stick is one of my favorite books. I highly recommend their book Switch, too.

  15. Fantastic blog. We focus so much on attention on the beginning, we tend to forget the closing needs to be more than just a call to action to comment. It needs to be a call to action to “do” , or think or whatever. I love your style of writing, and so happy to have found you. (via Jon Morrow) Just downloaded your book too. Thank you! Do you have your own site?

  16. Excellent article…Very motivational. I am creating a new blog (not published yet) promoting our nutritional medicine practice.

    I find it can be quite challenging to infuse technical articles with excitement. Your article provides a few concrete suggestions on ways to do that, while inspiring readers to take action.

    Thank you!

  17. Your reader is starving for something. Most of them do not have the slightest idea how to get it; you have the answer.

    You have said a lot already in the body of your story… and they want you to push them to edge…

    Yes, they are still afraid…but deep down they want you to push them to the edge and that what you must do at the end of your storytelling. They want to fly.

    Push them. Help them fly.

    Jef

  18. One more thing —

    The most important job of the earlier paragraphs is to bring them to the closing paragraph. The closing paragraph is the destination.

    • Yep, that’s true for each sentence. The only objective is to get people to read the next, and then the next …

  19. Jon – as always – tight cogent and right on — BUT — who did that PAINTING? thank you as always – Howard

  20. No matter what type of writing you are doing, a powerful conclusion is an important step that helps you make an impact and wrap things up for your readers. While it’s tempting to leave off the conclusion or treat it as an afterthought, doing so can be detrimental to your work.

  21. Henneke,

    I close like I have all the time in the world….along with a sense of urgency. What a delicious duo. I take my time yet move into inspired action. Using this mindset along with your excellent tips I intend to close out stronger than ever.

    Touch your reader’s heart. Think though each post then write from your divine center, by removing fear, and just, well, writing what you wish to write. I like spending as little time as possible editing posts because it takes the “me” essence out of the deal. Placing too much emphasis on being perfect removes the critical imperfections which make us human and heartfelt, and humans connect best with their readers and create the most rousing close outs.

    Thanks for sharing your super tips!

    • That’s interesting. I tend to spend a lot of time editing to put “me” into my writing.

      It’s interesting how everyone’s creative process is different, isn’t it?

  22. Nice rules for writing killing paragraphs, thanks for sharing :)

  23. The trap of the closing paragraph. Sometimes, I don’t even know what’s harder, writing the opening paragraph or the closing one? For me, I take time writing both, but sometimes, I give the intro more thought as I want to capture the reader’s attention first. But thanks Hanneke for proving to me that I should spend just the same time with my closing lines. After all, if the article doesn’t end with an impact, the whole thing I’ve written will be forgettable.

    • Yes, as you suggest opening and closing paragraphs have different roles, but both are important.

      Thank you, Azalea :)

  24. Thanks for the “rules” Henneke. I always struggle to close off my posts, hopefully putting these in action will help.

  25. I always struggle with closing my posts. I’m never sure what to say or how to say it. These 5 rules definitely gives me great ideas on how to make a great last impression.

  26. Hello Henneke,

    I just joined Jon’s GuestBlogging course, so I have only now begun to read about how to be a more successful blogger, as compared to reading blogs to be a better person.

    I really enjoyed your post and how you broke down what makes a killer closing paragraph. Thank you, I am beginning to “know what I don’t know” which is helping me to learn so much more.

    take care and wishing you all the best,
    Chuck