If you write 1,200 words of beautiful prose, only to leave your readers looking for a missing conclusion, the job has not been completed, and they may feel disinclined to read the next article they see with your byline.
Certain quotes can make good endings, such as something one of your interviewees might have said that is either anecdotal, or presents a brief picture of the article in retrospect.
Take, for example, the article from which we quoted the humorous anecdote about llamas earlier in this section. In this case the interviewee was particularly entertaining and had provided far more quotable material than could be used. The subject concerned planting selenium tablets with seedlings to essentially give them "garlic breath," and make deer shy away from eating them.
In the course of the interview, the researcher did a bit of rambling, mentioning that as a child he used to love horror movies, in some of which vampires were warded off with garlic. Though this anecdote was far too extraneous for use as part of the body of the article, the writer felt it would make a good close. The editor agreed. Here is how the writer ended the article:
Whether it is used to save or repel, selenium may well be the answer to many problems. Its medicinal value in the form of garlic has been touted through the years and its value as a repellent is well known to most of us, from such practices as tying garlic around a child's neck to keep playmates at a safe distance from communicable illnesses. And, as you may recall, it was responsible for repelling vampires in Transylvania.
"I feel as though I've come full circle from my youth, when I was a great horror movie fan, to my work today using selenium to repel deer," says Allan.
As for the latter, estimates are that the pellets could be on the market within a year, providing foresters with a safe, easy solution to a multimillion-dollar problem.
There is another element of this particular ending that should be pointed out. That is the use of information about when the product will become available. If you are writing an article about a product or procedure that is still in the experimental stage, the proper ending often need involve little more than informing your readers when they can expect to see it on the market or in general use.
Here are a couple of other examples of using quotes to help end an article. Both are from stories we have discussed earlier:
Are Trees Defenseless:
"Trees do amazing things," says Schultz," and we are just beginning to find out how complex they are. Plants in general are just very slow animals; the only thing they can't do is run away."
Another type of ending is commonly called the "echo." What this means is that in order to pull the article into a circle with no dangling ends, you refer to a word, phrase or idea mentioned in the lead.
Here is an example of an echo ending used in an article for an airline trade magazine. The article concerned a concept called laminar flow control (LFC), which means controlling the turbulence of air on the wings of aircraft in order to reduce the drag it creates. In the beginning it was mentioned that the concept had been around for a long time, but that the technology was not available to implement it. Here is part of the beginning:
Specifically, the industry was not yet able to fabricate wings strong enough to support such systems at higher speeds. This, in addition to several maintenance problems, and fuel costs being far less important then than they are today, led to a waning interest in developing practical LFC devices.
In the ending, the writer refers back to the phrase above, echoing it with a kind of "then and now" statement:
In the leapfrog world of scientific theory and technical capacity, the introduction of LFC systems was obliged to wait until aerodynamic and structural state of-the-art caught up with concept. It now appears that the table has turned, and the actuality of such systems lies just around the rather routine corner of testing and evaluation. In short: a concept whose time has come-again!
In service articles the ending can often be simply, "For more information write (call, contact) so-and-so." For example, in the article "Good News for Diabetic Mothers," the ending is a for-more-information type, followed by a listing of the five major centers around the country where the program was available:
For more information about diabetes and pregnancy, send for a pamphlet prepared by Dr. Lois Jovanovic of Cornell. Write to: Biodynamics, A. Boerhringer Mannheim Co., 9115 Hague Road, Indianapolis, IN 46250.
THE FIVE CENTERS ARE:…
One of the most common endings for a long research article is the "recap and conclusion" type. For this kind of ending you briefly summarize the major points of the article and conclude by mentioning what theory, breakthrough, suggested remedy, or consequences you have brought to light. It is a simple method of winding up an article, and can probably be best described by a fill-in-the-blanks example:
We have seen that (subject) can be (adjective), and that several theories (methods, products) have been developed to cope with the problem (disease, need). It appears, however, that in order to remedy (conquer, fill) this (subject), a new method (technology, perspective, initiative) such as Dr. so-and-so's, will eventually need to be employed.
This type of ending, though common, always seems somewhat dry to us. We prefer articles that close with a bit more color if possible; that leave the reader with a sense of wonder, perhaps a little humor or, in the case of articles that warn, a feeling of urgency.
As with all other facets of the article, how you conclude will depend on the subject, the tone, the length, and what kind of quotes and other material you have to work with. The most important thing to remember when ending an article is to leave your readers satisfied that the article has done its job, whether that job was to entertain, inform, serve or warn.
If your endings are non-conclusive, leaving loose ends dangling rather than tying things up neatly, your readers will be frustrated. If, on the other hand, they are carefully thought out, well constructed, and leave your audience informed rather than desiring more information, or if they elicit concern, a chuckle, or a feeling of fascination, there is a good chance readers will seek out your by-line in the future.