SAT Test Prep

CHAPTER 12
WRITING A GREAT ESSAY

Lesson 12: Finish with a Bang

What a Good Conclusion Does


Your conclusion should do one of the following:

• Make a broader connection to your thesis. Discuss an implication of your thesis by connecting it to your own life, society at large, a particular problem, the future, etc.

• Offer a solution. If your essay describes a problem, offer some ideas of how to fix it.

• Refine or clarify your thesis. Address objections to your point of view, or clarify important points.


Don’t Just Summarize


A conclusion provides closure to the essay and should leave the reader with something to think about. A conclusion should not be just a “recap” of your essay. Don’t merely restate your thesis in different words. A good conclusion must present a new idea. Read good essays in magazines like the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly, and in the New York Times Op-Ed page, and you will see that good writers never say “In conclusion, …” or “As I have proven in this essay, …” So you shouldn’t say that, either.


Don’t Tell Us What You’re Doing—Just Do It


Many writers are distractingly self-conscious. They say things like It is my opinion that drugs are dangerous instead of Drugs are dangerous. All competent readers know that your essay presents your opinion. You don’t need to tell them that you’re giving your opinion; just give it.


Weak and self-conscious:

I believe that bullies are often people who don’t like themselves. It’s just my opinion, of course, but those who have to pick on the weak can’t really feel good about themselves, as I can demonstrate with a few examples.

Stronger:

Bullies are often people who don’t like themselves. Those who have to pick on the weak can’t really feel good about themselves.


Similarly, don’t tell your readers that you are concluding your essay. Just conclude. Don’t say In conclusion,… or As my examples clearly prove free-thinking


Example:

As I said in the beginning, every cloud has a silver lining, and this has been shown in this essay with the examples of some wars and individual diseases. Both of these are bad things overall which sometimes can have good things come out of them. This shows that free-thinking

This conclusion seems to be saying: “Well, I guess it’s time for the conclusion. In case you weren’t paying attention, here’s what I just finished saying.” This is not what a conclusion should do; it should present new and interesting thoughts connected to the thesis. This conclusion merely repeats the thesis and doesn’t give the readers anything new to think about. In fact, it insults the readers by assuming that they can’t remember what they just read. Compare it to this revision:

Of course, wars are among the most tragic of all human events. If wars can have beneficial outcomes, then surely we can see the good in lesser tragedies. Perhaps if we could take such a positive perspective on our everyday problems, we would live happier lives.

This conclusion is more effective because it extends the thesis to a wider sphere, offers a suggestion, and leaves the readers thinking without insulting them.

Practice 12: Finish with a Bang

Conclusion Review

1. What are the three things that a good conclusion can do?

2. What does it mean for your writing to be self-conscious?

Self-Consciousness Sweeping Practice

Rewrite the following sentences to make them less self-conscious.

3. I think that classes should not start until 9:00 am, because I believe students need more rest than they are getting.

4. As I have shown with these examples, there are many factors to consider when choosing a college.

5. It is my opinion that more money should be spent, in my school and schools like it, on music programs.

6. These examples abundantly demonstrate that goals are important in life, as I said earlier.

Check your answers with the answer key at the end of the chapter.

Chapter 12 Answer Key

Practice 1

1. It means that you respond with a thoughtful and interesting thesis and provide relevant, specific examples and clear, logical explanations.

2. It means that you use paragraphs to develop, support, and explain your thesis, and that you conclude effectively.

3. It means that you avoid needless jargon, wordiness, cliché, or abstraction, and define terms as necessary.

4. It means that you vary your sentence structure appropriately, are concise, and choose your words wisely.

5. Four or five paragraphs.

Practice 6

1. A “top-down” essay states the thesis at the beginning, and a “bottom-up” essay states it near the end of the essay.

2. Four brief sentences: the thesis, the topic sentence of paragraph 2, the topic sentence of paragraph 3, and the concluding idea.

Practice 7

1. We knew that the game would be hard foughtHoweverwe never thought it would last 8 hours and 20 innings.

2. There were thousands of visitors in town for the gameThereforeit was almost impossible to find a hotel room.

3. The theory of evolution has had a profound effect on scientific thoughtFurthermoreit has influenced many artists and writers.

4. We knew that punishing the culprits would do no goodThereforewe took no action against them.

5. Perfect games are rareIn factin the last two years, only one was bowled in the entire state.

6. There were several reasons for the delayFirstthe bus driver had the wrong directions.

Practice 8

1. Competition encourages excellence.

2. Our managers consider all ideas from our employees, and use the best ones.

3. People are increasingly concerned that the government is wasting money.

4. When we focus exclusively on personal moral responsibility, we ignore the importance of social institutions.

Practice 9

1. An effective manager must rely on sound management principles as well as past experience.

2. Parents and students should have input into the new testing plan.

3. Many cleaning substances should not be combined, because violent reactions could result.

4. Even if every citizen contributed to the effort, it would still take several years to complete.

5. The food and blankets dropped for the refugees was far from sufficient to ward off the hunger and cold.

6. We watched the jet until it disappeared.

7. Today, too many people depend on television as their exclusive source of information.

8. Few people know that such gambling violates federal law.

9. Because corporations try to maximize profit, they rarely focus on environmental needs.

10. If your boss opposes your proposal at the meeting, consider talking to her about it.

11. Too few people realize that economic strength often reflects the hopes of consumers.

Chapter 12 Answer Key

Practice 10

1. Many people today think that young people are lazy.

2. They say that they spend too much time playing video games or watching MTV.

3. They are wrong.

4. In fact, many of my friends are choosing careers that help others rather than make themselves rich.

5. This action violates the company’s own contract.

6. The earthquake devastated the village.

7. I failed the test because I hadn’t studied.

8. The critics complained that the movie was dull and hackneyed.

9. The army maneuvered boldly under the cover of night.

10. A dozen chairs filled the hallway outside the office.

Practice 11

1. Many neoconservatives love to claim that lowering taxes actually raises government revenueThey are wrong. It’s not that simpleIn fact, the government’s tax revenue depends on many things other than the tax rate.

2. My mother sat me down and explained to me how important it is to spend money wiselyI got the messageI began keeping better track of my accounts and became a wiser consumer.

3. David scrutinized his test results.

4. The girls in the car babbled for hours.

5. The coach harangued us about our lack of effort in the first half.

6. When a doctor prescribes something for you, follow the directions carefully.

7. Ordinary people hate liars, but noblemen love them.

Practice 12

1. Make a broader connection to the thesis; offer a solution; refine or clarify the thesis.

2. It means that you are telling your reader that you are doing something rather than simply doing it.

3. Classes should not start until 9:00 am, because students need more rest than they are getting.

4. There are many factors to consider when choosing a college.

5. More money should be spent on school music programs.

6. Goals are important in life.