Starting an Essay: How to Write a Hook
Have you ever found yourself just coming to the end of reading an article or post, having not planned to, but you wound up anyway — followed by the natural curiosity of how it absorbed you? That’s it! You were hooked! Your attention was captured by that first sentence and it made you so curious that you read the whole text.
Do you want to learn some little tricks about how to catch the attention of your readers? If so, please continue reading this guide and we will tell you all that we know.
What Is a Hook in Writing?
A hook is a short piece of information provided at the very beginning of an essay and is aimed to attract and hold readers’ attention. Usually, it is no longer than 1-2 sentences, but it should be so intriguing, interesting, or impressive that readers naturally end up wanting to know more and read further.
You may use a hook in most essay types, with no limitations. Everything depends on the hook itself. For example, a line from a poem isn’t an appropriate hook for an expository essay, whereas a joke has little chances of becoming a good hook for a persuasive essay for a serious topic.
It is important to understand that a hook is not an alternative to an introduction. It does not replace it, but rather enhances it. Actually, it is simply an optional way to start the introductory part of your essay. An introduction with a hook would have the following structure:
A Hook + Short Description of your Topic + Thesis.
Here is an example:
A Hook: Do you know that 0.3% of solar energy from the Sahara is enough to power the entirety of Europe?
Short Description of a Topic: Yes, the possibilities granted by such natural energy sources are impressive. So why don’t we still use them to their full potential, and when will it begin to happen?
Thesis: It seems that the problem, as it often happens, is inside the minds of people and their inability to take action.
If, by this moment, you have a strong feeling that writing a good hook is quite simple, don’t jump to conclusions. The price of making a mistake is too high. A bad hook will have the opposite effect on readers – they won’t read any further than a few sentences.
Let’s say your essay topic is about climate change, here are two hooks. We will examine which of these is properly written:
- Climate change is impacting human lives and their health in a variety of ways: it threatens clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply, and safe shelter.
- According to World Health Organization between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone.
Which one would you choose? – Right, the second one. This example shows us an example of a “bad” and a “good” hook. A good hook will match the essay type, will be appropriate to the writer’s style, and will lead readers to the main topic gently. While a bad hook will result in readers having lower expectations for the essay that the essay itself might not necessarily match.
How to Write a Good Hook for Your Essay
If you want to learn how to write the best essay hook you possibly can, here are some rules you need to follow:
- Keep your essay type in mind. This is the most basic thing you will need to know, in order to find an appropriate hook. An effective hook is not only about its message, but it is possibly even more about its relevance. An effective and appropriate hook for a romantic novel review and an argumentative essay will differ a lot. We will review some examples below.
- Decide on the purpose of your hook. What effect do you want to obtain from it? Do you want your readers to be intrigued? Or, better yet, surprised? Or even a little bit shocked? Choose a hook according to the effect you want to achieve.
- Choose a hook at the end of the writing process. Despite the fact that it should be the first sentence of your paper, it doesn’t mean you should write your hook first. Writing an essay is a long and creative process. So, if you couldn’t think of an effective hook at the beginning, just keep writing according to your plan, and it will eventually come into your head. If you were lucky enough to concoct your hook right away, double check your writing to see if it still fits into the whole text and its style (once you’ve finished writing).
- Make it really short. The shorter the better – this is a rule that works for essay hooks. Keeping your hook to a minimum size will ensure that readers will read it at the same moment they start looking at your essay. Even before thinking if they want or don’t want to read it, their attention will be captured and their curiosity will get the best of them. So, they will continue reading the entire text to find out as much as they can.
Strategies for Writing an Essay Hook
Now, let’s move directly to hook types that exist, and their features:
Obviously, a book review is the best occasion in which you can use a literary quote as a hook. Though its use is not limited only to that and depends mostly of the quotes meaning and style. Despite that, it can be one of the easiest types to find and use. We suggest being really careful with them. Remember, literary quotes will not be appropriate for expository or persuasive essays.
You may use the following lines to start your compare-and-contrast essay on William Shakespeare’s works from different periods: “A little more than kin and less than kind” (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2)
Quotes from Famous People
This is another commonly used type of hook—and maybe even overused a little bit. If you want to use this one, but don’t want to be dull, pick a modern figure with great achievements, so that your readers will be interested and motivated to continue reading on.
“There have to be reasons that you get up in the morning and you want to live”.
Elon Musk’s quotes are, generally, great hook ideas for persuasive essays on how to achieve the best results of your life in business and how to have an impact on the world.
Show the readers that something they believe in isn’t true. Then, connect it with the thesis of your work. The idea of this method is to intensify disagreement within your topic, and even create a sort of disturbance that will force the readers to read further.
“The Buddha was not fat”, “Fortune cookies are not Chinese”.
You may start with these phrases if you want to show how often things are different from how we are used to seeing them. This approach is typically appropriate for an explanation or reflection essay.
Anecdotes and Jokes
These can be a good option if the topic is not too serious. Though, using a joke at the beginning of your paper doesn’t necessarily mean that your essay should also be humorous. Moreover, remember to be brief. The joke should be short and well-aimed to achieve the best results.
“I stop fighting my inner demons, because we are on the same side.”
This is the best way to open an explanatory essay about the role of bad habits in our lives and how to understand them, not fight them.
Use this type of hook only if you are able to put your story into 2-3 sentences. In any other cases, look for another hook. Additionally, don’t tell too much of a personal story, and evaluate if it will be appropriate to the style. Narrative essays are a good occasion to tell an interesting story to your readers.
This type of hook is really effective and can be used when other types of hooks are not appropriate. Use statistics for serious topics and persuasive essays. Providing figures is practically as effective as seeing something with your own eyes. Showing exact figures, instead of using the words “many” or “a lot”, usually impresses people.
There are 4.2 billion Instagram Likes per day.
The secret to this trick relates to the principles of how the human brain works. Your brain starts to process a question once you have heard it, even if nobody asks you to answer it—and even if it is a rhetorical question. Your readers will start to think about your question, despite the fact that they have their own answers, or they will become curious about your point of view. Another more important point – such questions should be unusual, and maybe even unexpected. You can even ask something usual from a different point of view. Don’t ask ordinary or dull questions.
“Have you ever thought about how much plastic waste you produce every year?”
This question will likely make your readers interested, make them stop reading, and start to think about it. Right after that, they will be glad to listen to your thoughts about the plastic pollution problem. Use this hook for an argumentative, or cause-and-effect essay.
Fact or Definition
You may open your essay with an interesting fact, or by providing a definition connected to your topic. The same rule applies here, as for most of the types above: it should be interesting, unexpected, and/or shocking.
“The population of the USA is 319 million people and the number of firearms owned by US citizens is 371 million [resource link] — in fact, there are more guns than people.”
This is a great option to start your gun control essay.
For most people, it is easier to remember and process visual information. Another insight into the human brain is that we like to transform words into images inside our heads. So, if I tell you: do not imagine a big shaggy dog. You will do exactly the opposite! In making people imagine the things you write about, you involve them more. Try to use it for narrative or descriptive essays.
“Imagine yourself sitting in front of the fire, with a cup of tasty tea and your dearest people with you.”
Another trick is not to use any tricks. Just start directly from your main statement. You won’t be able to put a lot into a couple of sentences, and you don’t need to. Though, you may outline what you are going to say in your essay and why it is so important.
“I strongly believe that the most important thing in preventing nature’s pollution are our personal contributions, and I would like to share my experience with you.”
Despite this guide not being short, we really believe it will help you write short and effective hooks for your essays. Try, and shortly you will be able to appreciate this technique.