How do I wrap this thing up?
How you start will determine if you get read, but how you end will determine how people feel about the experience. And, depending on your goals, your ending will determine the success of the piece as a whole.
Begin With the Ending in Mind
One key to a successful ending is to understand exactly where you are trying to take the reader before you ever write a word. I tend to do this all in my head before I write an article, but if that doesn’t work for you, do a quick outline and state exactly what the point of the piece is.
The goal of any effective writing is to take the reader on an enjoyable, informative ride from point A to point B, possibly persuading along the way. The way to do that is to have clarity before you start.
5 Ways to Close Like a Champ
Here are five general ways to close things out, depending on your goals:
Ever hear people give this advice?
Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em… tell ‘em… tell ‘em what you told ‘em.
As Kevin Kline’s Otto in A Fish Called Wanda says repeatedly:
What was that middle thing again?
Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.
2. Call to action
The direct response copywriter’s favorite closer is the call to action… what do you want someone to do? Is it to buy something, call you, download a report, bookmark the post, leave a comment, or click a link?
Don’t forget to ask, or, if appropriate, tell the reader what to do. If you make people figure it out for themselves, less people will perform the desired action.
Make it clear what you’d like to have happen.
Often times a great piece of writing is intended to make people think or feel a certain way, and in these instances simply asking or telling them to do so is counter-productive. In these situations, finding an artful way to leave things up to the reader is key.
If you are inspired when you write the post, your conclusion will many times work itself out based on the way you began. Tie your conclusion back to your opening, but don’t spell everything out for the reader. Rather, let the reader tell themselves the story.
4. Post Script
Another copywriting favorite, the P.S. is actually a strategic device designed to entice people to read the main copy. In direct mail, people will generally read the headline and a few sentences, flip to the end and see who signed it and notice the P.S. Check out Roberta Rosenberg’s great post on writing a P.S. from a sales letter perspective.
The post script is used a lot in blogging, although you might not recognize it… it’s called the UPDATE. When a post is updated with new information at the end, and pops back up in Bloglines, you might read the eye-catching update even though you didn’t read the original post, which then prompts you to go ahead and read the whole thing.
I think I may have just unleashed a monster…
So often online, our goal is simply to make sure people pay attention the next time we show up, whether it be the next email, blog post or installment in a tutorial. In these situations, it’s important to build curiosity with a compelling reason to stay tuned in.
Take a cue from Tinsel Town on cliffhangers. As disappointed as some were with the second Pirates of the Caribbean film (middle movies are hard, too), that cliffhanger ending all but guarantees that the third installment will be HUGE.
Endings are crucial because the last impression you leave with people is the most important, both in terms of response and emotion. That’s why having a clear understanding of what your goals for the piece are, and knowing where you’re going when you start, are the keys to going out with style.
Read this post from Kathy Sierra if you want more great tips on effective endings.
Next time, we’ll look at the danger of following advice from people like me….
P.S. Which of the 5 closing techniques did I NOT use?
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Want to learn more about this topic?
Then listen to this short podcast episode called How to Close With Style with Jerod Morris and Demian Farnworth. And don’t forget to subscribe to The Lede once you’re done!