Good writing calls for practiceand commitment. One of the keys to being an effective writer is rememberingyour audience, keeping them in mind, understanding that the best audience is onethat takes an active rather than passive role in reading what it is that youare trying to get across. The opening and closing strategies that have beendiscussed here are proven means for accomplishing that exact purpose. At thesame time, you have been given a list of the do’s and don’ts in developingthesis statements. To become really adept at writing, though, you have to read:widely and broadly. Reading will give you access not only to new informationbut, even more, will expose you to different writing styles and ways ofexpression that can only enhance and improve your own.
This can be avery effective means for closing out an essay. It adds style and grace to thewriting. The best quotes, again, come out of popular culture or wisdom. Thequote(s) should be directly related to the subject matter. Using quotesdefinitely gives your audience the impression that you are in control of thematerial.
If you still don't feel sure about the opening, one final suggestion may help. The seed of a good beginning is often contained in the ending. Think of your ending as a goal, a destination, a place you've been working toward. Ask what it is that makes you want to end there rather than somewhere else. Now read back over the essay as a whole and look for a possible starting point, some word, image, or incident that connects with, anticipates, the ending.
Read the opening and closing of your most recent draft of an informal essay. Does your opening contain unnecessary explanation that could be deleted or replaced by vivid, concrete imagery? Does your ending introduce a new topic or try too hard to drive home a point that you've already made? What reader expectations does your opening set up? Have these expectations been satisfied by the closing? Rework the opening and closing of your essay and then write a draft that's ready for final editing.
At the start, don't be too critical of whatever gets you going. Later, as you revise, you'll look critically and suspiciously at your opening. Sometimes the first paragraph of the first draft of an informal essay can be lopped off completely with nothing much lost. Cruel and unfeeling as it may seem, the best way to a good opening is often to take one last long look at your original beginning and chop it.
With this technique, you disclose a significant piece of information, or a part of yourself, that you haven’t revealed in the body of the essay. In an essay about your inspiring first coach, it might go something like, “Coach Jane passed away last year and now, every time I get a new pair of tennis shoes, I write her initials on the inside. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I think it helps me play better.” This approach can help tie together earlier parts of the essay and also be very dramatic, which is always a positive.
It can be interesting to close your essay by wondering what would have happened to you – what kind of person you would have been, what values you might have had – had the events of the essay never occurred. This can illustrate your capacity for “big picture” thinking – seeing things from more than one perspective – as well as an appreciation for the benefits you’ve enjoyed from the way things actually occurred.
Simple, direct, but always effective, this closing technique summarizes what you have learned through the events you’ve been describing in the essay. If you helped serve Thanksgiving dinners at a local homeless shelter, this is where you would state what you learned through the experience. To keep this approach from being too simplistic, try to offer examples – showing, not telling – of how these lessons have played out in your life.
This technique takes a phrase, a theme, an object, a person from the beginning of your essay and brings it back at the end. Using it will give your essay a feeling of unity and completion, leaving the Admissions Officer both satisfied and impressed. As an example, say you’ve started your essay with a bit of dialogue between you and your dad. Employing “The Echo,” you would then close the essay with another snippet of dialogue, ideally reflecting the major theme of the essay. If you began with the image of yourself boarding a camp bus for your first summer away from your parents, you might end it with the image of you boarding another bus, the one taking you off to college. However you use it, this technique is great way to show that you know how to bring a concept full circle.
Beginnings serve two important purposes. The first is to get you started writing. The second is to get your readers started reading. Early in your writing you're concerned more with the first purpose: getting off to a good start, maybe with enough push to carry you into the heart of the essay. Yet the beginning that gets you going won't always be best for getting readers involved. That's okay. You can take care of that later, after you've seen how the essay is taking shape.
Here is the concluding paragraph of George Orwell's famous essay, "Politics and the English Language." If you would like to read the entire essay from which this conclusion is taken (and check out, especially, the beginning), click .
Second, the conclusion is no place to bring up new ideas. If a brilliant idea tries to sneak into our final paragraph, we must pluck it out and let it have its own paragraph earlier in the essay. If it doesn't fit the structure or argument of the essay, we will leave it out altogether and let it have its own essay later on. The last thing we want in our conclusion is an excuse for our readers' minds wandering off into some new field. Allowing a peer editor or friend to reread our essay before we hand it in is one way to check this impulse before it ruins our good intentions and hard work.
All of these opening strategies,or essay gambits, have one purpose and that is to focus the audience on yourpurpose for writing: your thesis statement. You could not write a very good or insightfulessay, for example, if your thesis was “The Hyundai is a great car.” Thatstatement by itself is both vague and general. It has no focus and fails togive the audience anything in terms of where the composition is going. On theother hand, the audience receives a clear sense of direction from a thesisstatement that reads “Because of its great gas mileage, low maintenance, andoutstanding road handling on highways and city streets, the Hyundai is a greatcar.”