Some high school and college students assume the body paragraphs are all that matter in an essay. However, an argument will fall flat if it does not end with a strong conclusion -- especially when your intent is to persuade. A good conclusion summarizes the points you made earlier and also makes the reader want to act in response to the paper.
Describe the Stakes
According to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, begin with a reminder. Let the reader know what will happen if nothing is done to resolve the issue in your argument. Reuse a particular statistic or an example you used earlier. If, to get the reader interested, you started your persuasive essay on drunk driving with the story of a mother and children who were killed by a drunk driver, begin the conclusion by referring back to that family.
Summarize Your Position
Briefly restate your position. Touch on the highlights of your argument, and show how your essay resolves or addresses the issue. Waterford Union High School advises students to restate the thesis and summarize all of the main points from the body paragraphs. For example, if you're writing a persuasive essay that argues that legal consequences for drunk driving are too lenient, emphasize key evidence you introduced in the body -- such as the percent of offenders that go on to drive under the influence again.
Clincher: Call to Action
End by arming your readers with specific actions they can take based on the information you have just provided. To encourage stronger penalties for drunk driving, for example, you might ask readers to put pressure on the legislature to create change. As a final note, consider using a quote related to the topic or show how your position relates to a broader issue, according to the Harvard College Writing Center. Ending with a prediction of how the situation will improve if people follow your advice in the paper is another commonly recommended practice.
Problems to Avoid
Avoid these common pitfalls to make your conclusion stand out. The Writing Center at Harvard recommends to not begin this section or paragraph with a phrase like “in conclusion” or “to conclude." Though transitions are important in persuasive writing in general, these tend to be overused.
Make sure your final paragraph does more than just summarize your position. Remember, if you only explain why you hold a certain belief, you are not writing an argument or persuasive essay. You must cause some change in the reader to be successful with this assignment.
Residing in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Buddy Shay has been in higher education since 2003 with experience in the classroom and in academic support. He holds a Master of Arts in English. Shay is also a certified practitioner of the MBTI personality instrument and has previous experience working with secondary students.