Friday 27 March 2015

How to Finish Off Your Article with a Bang

"When you've found your concordant ending, you'll know." (Michelle Ruberg)

How do you finish off your article with a big bang?  Michelle Ruberg, author of Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, recommends that you end with a quote.  Do you have a statement that sums up the issue while adding a touch of pathos?

Despite resistance from the city's gaming commission, Dr. Ellen Parker and other ecologists continue to search for a safe home for the endangered birds because they believe each creature plays a vital role in our ecosystem.  'If this creature were to disappear, it would cause an explosion in the insect population and that could have a disastrous effect on local agriculture,' Parker said.  'Then it's not just about the birds.  The problem will affect all of us.'"

In order to pack an emotional punch, respond briefly to the end quote, ideally including the reader in the story.

Another way to end your article is to bring it full circle:  revisit a word, phrase or idea that you included in the introduction, often in a different or humorous way.  Lauren Mosko in the Louisville Eccentric Observer does this effectively.

The Rudyard Kipling.  It's a restaurant, it's a bar, it's a playhouse, it's a musical's a garage. You're out of luck if you're looking for an oil change, but if it's garage rock you're seeking, you've come to the right place.

Three bands, three chords, one night.  It may sound like a garage, but if you're not there by nine, don't expect to find a decent parking space.

Michelle Ruberg suggests reaching a higher ground by introducing a provocative statement or unexplored question at the end of your piece.  "Plant a seed of curiosity in the reader's mind."

Today, The New Yorker featured Sarah Larson's article "East Village Fire:  Love Saves the Day".  She ended it with this paragraph:

"The East Village has long intermingled love and loss:  signs of bygone eras and heroes are everywhere.  The loss of these buildings;  the places we loved, the relocation of the people who lived and worked there, the memories of what used to be, as of yesterday -- is painful.  Not knowing what happened to Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locon is unimaginably so."

Speak a common language.  Break one of the rules of writing by including a cliche at the end of your article, part of your reader's collective knowledge bank.  During the Gulf War, there was a national press blackout.  An article about the issue could have ended like this, according to Michelle Ruberg:

And so, for twenty four hours, the country received absolutely no news on the conflict.  Whoever said that's good news couldn't have been a journalist.  Or the parent of a soldier."

The reference, of course, is to the maxim "No news is good news".

Lastly, trust your gut; end your article at a logical place.  You've said what needed to be said; now it's time to end it.  As Michelle Ruberg says:  "When you've found your concordant ending, you'll know."

For more information, read Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Michelle Ruberg) at

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