How to Write an Amazing Concluding Paragraph Using SAC

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In my previous post, I covered how to nail introductory paragraphs, particularly for articles. Today, let’s cover how to wrap it all up with a fantastic conclusion.

The SAC format

Most conclusions can follow the Summary, Action, and Clincher (SAC) format. It works well for essays, articles, and blogs, for instance.

The summary reviews your key assertion or thesis and ties all your main points together.

The action encourages your reader to do something based on the thesis/article points. It can be a mental action (e.g., “Consider…”), but task-oriented statements (e.g., “Clean up your computer files”) arguably are more powerful. It really just depends on the nature of the thesis.

The clincher is an attention-getter or final thought that makes it clear to the reader that you’re all done.

Here’s a quick example:

All great articles need a powerful conclusion. The best way to do that is to use SAC formatting, which includes a summary, action, and clincher.  (summary) Prepare your thesis and body carefully when you write so that pulling your thesis and main points together with this template is easy. (action) After all, the more organized your writing is, the more enjoyable it likely will be for your reader, and that’s the ultimate author’s goal. (clincher)

 

Instead of rehashing, SAC ties it all together and directs people forward with a clear why

The main consideration when you use SAC is that you don’t want to sound like you’re just repeating yourself. Don’t just pull your thesis and main point sentences down to the bottom, and don’t add more details, because by the time you reach your conclusion, you already should have laid those out in the body.

Instead, find a way to rephrase those concepts in an interesting way that pulls everything together. The reader should get the sense, based on how you do this, that you’re wrapping up and are about to give them that clincher.

So think about that final sentence. Ask yourself what impression you want the reader to take away and how you can lead into that. The more you can think about a broad perspective or big picture, the simpler this job will be.

How to Write a Solid Article Introduction Using AMAP

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Web and magazine articles are some of the most consumed content in the modern age. But what happens if your intro paragraph stinks? Because of the sheer quantity of pieces out there, if your introduction is subpar, readers will ditch you fast. To rise above the noise, for most articles, you need to hook people right away with attention-getter, motivator, assertion, and preview sentences (AMAP).

The four parts of the intro, defined

Your attention-getter is your introduction’s hook. It can take a lot of forms. Stats, sayings/quotes, facts, or descriptions all work, so think about your audience and how they tend to think or work.

Your motivator explains the attention-getter or gives the reader a reason to listen. It can identify the source of a quote to offer authority, for example, or it can provide a curiosity gap. The best motivators show direct relevance between the hook and the reader’s needs, wants, or interests.

The assertion is your thesis. This is where you make the claim or overall point for the article.

The preview summarizes what you’re going to cover in the article to support the thesis. The trick is to do this in a way that leaves some room for a little header variety. Otherwise, you just sound like you’re repeating yourself.

The example right in front of you

If you go back and look at the introduction for this post, it follows the AMAP strategy. I start with a fact, build a little curiosity with a question, assert that readers will leave without a good intro, and then outline AMAP.

Storytelling and other uses

Unless you’ve been under a rock, then you know that the best writing emphasizes great storytelling. People want to connect and empathize as they read. That’s what pulls them in. Although AMAP is meant more for straightforward pieces, such as how-tos or explainers, you still can use it with great artistry. Here’s a sample I whipped up:

When the dry season came, the water ran out. I tried not to show fear, but my mind could not help think about whether the drought would devour us. Unless we walked to the camp more than 100 miles away, we would not make it. What water was left in the river was too dirty, there was no way to grow food for our bellies, and the sky was an endless blaze of light.

So don’t think for a minute that you can’t apply this format to a great short story or even a novel. You can. With a little tweaking, it even can get you started on a query or promotional blurb/excerpt (e.g., When the dry season came to Yanta’s village…can they overcome the dirty river, food shortage, and blazing sky to reach the camp 100 miles away?). Because remember, you’re just catching the reader’s attention, making your point, and summarizing.

When to leave AMAP behind

AMAP doesn’t apply as well to more journalistic/news pieces, which jump right into the events/facts. It also isn’t the best choice if you’re directly transcribing an interview–that just needs a single sentence saying what the transcription covers, who was involved, and when the discussion happened.

Another consideration is editorial preference/style. Some publications or sites always want their pieces to follow a specific feel or format. They might say, for example, to use quotes only in the main body of the article, or they might favor a format where there are only one or two sentences to begin. Always review pieces that already are up or in print to decide if AMAP will work.

Variety is valuable, but for a quick start, AMAP has incredible strength

AMAP is a specific method for approaching introductory paragraphs. It’s ideal for articles, but it’s applicable to other purposes, too. Even though I don’t recommend using it every single time because of the value of variety, it’s a powerful technique to have in your writing arsenal. Pull it out when you need to get started on pieces quickly and a little templating makes sense to get yourself moving.

The Danger of Scripts in Writing and Related Content

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Lately, I’ve been listening to a ton of podcasts. Although they cover a host of different topics, they almost all start the same way if there’s a guest:

“Thanks for being on the show.”

“Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.”

Now, if I hadn’t listened to so many episodes, perhaps I might not have noticed this. And I understand that this way of starting a show is culturally accepted as normal. But as it is, it strikes me now as almost a nervous tick. It’s become like Popeye eating spinach, and because of that, I can’t stand it.

What overused podcast introductions have to do with your writing

Writers often repurpose their content. They can turn an article concept into a podcast episode, for example, and good podcasters usually have a basic outline for an episode instead of just winging it.

But it got me thinking about the potential for writers to get stuck in scripts regardless of medium. Maybe you don’t start your stories all with “Once upon a time…”, for example. But maybe you keep using certain phrases you constantly see in your genre. Or maybe you template your articles so much that, even though the content technically changes, readers see your structure to such an extent that they’re distracted or feel like you’re not trying hard enough.

The point is, there’s a balance between the norms and having your own voice.

 

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If you’re going to do a podcast, for example, then you still need to introduce your guest. But you can say something  like “I’m really grateful you’re with us today because you…” or “First, let me just express my appreciation for taking the time to be with us…” It doesn’t have to be so obnoxiously cookie-cutter.

Three ways to break free from scripts for good

How do you get out of the script and stay spontaneous and authentic? For me, it starts with thinking in terms of purpose. What do you need to achieve? What has to happen? There are lots of different paths you can take to reach an objective, but what’s the goal in the first place? Think about that, rather than the specific words you’ll write or say.

Secondly, look back at what you’ve already done. If you’re going after the same goal, challenge yourself not to copy the path you took the last time. You can’t break a habit you’re not aware of, after all.

Third, read as much as you can all over the map. The more writers and genres you expose yourself to, the more ways you’ll see to approach what you have to accomplish.

So check your writing. There’s something to be said for planning to a certain level for efficiency’s sake. But if you feel like you’re repeating yourself or taking an approach just because you “need” to for acceptance, step back. There’s always a new, fresh way. You just have to be brave enough to use it.

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Writing Instantly

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If you want to improve your writing, then the best way to do it–by far–is to just write, and to do it a lot. There’s no magic quick fix for honing your own style and becoming comfortable with the entire process. But there are some habits and strategies that can make a dramatic improvement in just minutes.

1. Say the words.

Yes, you have to go back and clean things up. But part of what makes writing work is that it feels conversational and relatable. Reading your writing aloud or verbalizing as a part of outlining process helps you find your flow. If you’re tripping all over yourself in a spot, then you probably can say it in a simpler way or find alternatives that fit the rhythm of the writing better.

2. Download a tool.

My favorite here is Grammarly, but there are increasingly sophisticated options. Some even are starting to utilize AI to generate content and predictive analysis to make suggestions. The key here is to remember that the software is not the boss. It is simply a second pair of eyes, your Editor-in-a-Pinch. YOU still have to be smarter than the technology and think about how the suggestions/changes will influence the reader’s experience. But they can help you notice areas that need clarity or correction very quickly. They also can get you to think more out of the box and feel OK about chucking what doesn’t work.

3. Psych yourself up.

As a writer, your job isn’t just to tell the story (e.g., Fact A, Fact B, Fact C). That’s boring as hades. What makes it engaging is empathy. Readers have to feel something for the work to be memorable and have an influence on their thinking or behavior.

Conveying feelings in your writing happens more naturally if you’re feeling those emotions as you work. In this way, it’s every bit of performance art as acting or singing. It can be exhausting if you truly embrace and put everything into it. To get yourself in the right mindset for a scene, do anything that gets you in the mood you need to convey. Listening to music tracks is an easily accessible option I use all the time. But you also can go for a walk, go somewhere new, drink your favorite drink, play a video game or even sort your stuff. The only rules are that whatever you do has to be 1) easy to stop and pivot from 2) safe for you and others.

4. Pay attention to your body and environment.

I’m not talking so much about general self-care, although things like enough sleep and choosing healthy foods definitely influence your brainpower. I’m talking about your natural rhythm during the day. For example, most of us slump during the afternoon, and I find that I write more words per hour in the morning before everyone is up and it’s quiet. Try to figure out when you do your best writing and then make sure that you’re scheduling in those windows. Take care of the more routine jobs for your writing that you can do pretty automatically, such as backing up your files, when you know you’re not going to be at your creative best.

5. Conduct a poll.

Whether you need to know which ending scenario people like better or just want to see which phrasing people prefer, a poll is a super fast and efficient way to get feedback. Social media platforms make it easy to connect with others for this purpose. When all is said and done, you’ll be left with a draft that’s easier to understand and gets a better response from your target audience. It also can help make you more aware of your shortcomings or biases so that they don’t find their way into your work in the future.

Most great writers admit that improving at the craft is something that never stops. Like them, you should seek to get better and learn more about writing over your entire career. But sometimes simple changes can make a huge, immediate difference in the quality or quantity of your work (or both). Give these strategies a try, and then let me know in the comments if they’ve helped you along.