A hook is an opening statement (which is usually the first sentence) in an essay that attempts to grab the reader’s attention so that they want to read on. It can be done by using a few different types of hooks, which are a question, quote, statistic, or anecdote. Be mindful that the hook has to be related to the overall topic of the paper. Here are a few examples of each type of hook.
A question hook is when you ask the reader something that they can visualize and try to think of in their own minds. Then, the writer answers the question.
Have you ever watched the high-flying, jump shooting, slam dunking, ankle breaking players that play in the NBA? Every time I catch a game on television and I witness the thrill of the game, I can’t help but watch another one.
A quotation hook is when a quote is used and explained that has relevance to the topic at hand. Make sure this quote comes from a credible source. Also, talk about the quote’s meaning afterwards to ensure that the reader isn’t confused.
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen” said Michael Jordan, arguably the best player to ever play in the NBA. Here, Jordan talks about how people want, dream, wish, and pray that they will one day make it to the big stage. These are usually the people that never make it. It is only when these dreamers and wishers take matters into their own hands and strive to be the best that they actually get to play professional basketball in the NBA.
A statistic hook can be used for more informational pieces of writing. The writer uses a quote from a source that relates to the main idea of the paper, but the quote must have some type of statistics, such as numbers, decimals, or and/or percentages. The meaning and relationship of the quote to the paper needs to be explained afterwards just in case the reader does not quite understand
“Just 0.00545 percent of the 550,000 boys playing high school basketball each year in the United States become a first-round draft pick — 1 in 18,333” stated Jeff Rabjohns, a writer for The Indianapolis Star, in an article titled “Prep players face long odds of making it to NBA.” Basically, only a few high school players will make it to the NBA. Even though there are many that strive, play, train, practice, and fight to be great, a huge majority of them do not make it.
When a writer uses a short story to relate to the topic and gain the reader’s attention, they are using an anecdote. This story can be a short, personal story or one that is a figment of your imagination. Make sure that it relates to the main idea of the paper. Show the relevance that it has to the topic of the paper.
When I was in high school, I remember playing in an AAU basketball league. We had to travel to downtown Philadelphia on the weekends for basketball practice. Each and every time we had basketball practice (which was at 8 a.m.), there was a boy around my age in the gym by the time we arrived. He was always covered in sweat, throwing up shots, practicing his layups, practicing his dribbling, and running laps around the gym. He was in such great shape. One day, I mustered up the courage to ask his about his ambitions, and he told me that he gets up at 5:30 a.m. to go to the gym and practice hard until my team comes in for practice. A few years later, this guy was entering the NBA draft from high school. When I saw him get drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, I knew exactly why. All that hard work had paid off for him. This is the hard work ethics and mindset that everyone that wants to make it to the NBA should have.
And you have to find perfect hooks for an essay even when you don’t know what to write about.
When you are asked to write an essay, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get to express your own thoughts and creativity. An essay shouldn’t be boring or too formal. As a writer, your first priority is to make sure that you are keeping your audience in mind and writing for them and to them. That means grabbing and keeping their attention so that they want to read every word.
This is exactly why the essay hook exists and is such an important tool.
The use of hooks in writing goes far beyond just essays and college papers. Every writer, copywriter, screenwriter, and storyteller uses this device to draw in readers and keep them hooked. For example, world-famous ad executive, David Ogilvy, relied on a list of 29 “magic words” that he used in titles in order to hook a client’s attention.
College essay hooks can be difficult to generate, especially when you are still working on clarifying what your essay is going to say. So, the very first step in writing a strong essay hook is to do some planning.
This type of hook is appropriate when you are writing about a particular author, story, literary phenomenon, book, etc. Using a quote will make your essay sound fresh and establish your authority as an author.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” These words of Nick Carraway perfectly describe…”
“Not all those who wander are lost.” And yes, indeed, every person is so…”
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” Agree or not, but these words from The Alchemist determine…”
Including a quote from an authoritative and influential person can help support your argument and create an intriguing hook. The key is to make sure that you clearly show how the quote is relevant to your essay.
“John Wooden once said, ‘Never mistake activity for achievement.'”
“Learn to laugh” were the first words from my kindergarten teacher after Ralph Thorsen spilled paint on my daffodil picture.
Don’t be afraid to employ this type of hook. Remember, even if you start with a humorous anecdote, it doesn’t mean that your entire essay has to be funny. A bit of humor can help you grab readers’ attention and spark their interest in the topic.
“As my cousin and I pedaled our new bikes to the beach, 6 years old, suntanned and young, we met an old, shaggy-haired man weaving unsteadily on a battered old bike.”
“When I was a young boy, my father worked at a coal mine. For 27 years, he made it his occupation to scrape and claw and grunt his way into the bowels of the earth, searching for fuel. On April 19, 2004, the bowels of the earth clawed back.”
Keep in mind that most essay assignments will ask you to avoid using the first person. Be sure to check any requirements before using “I” in your writing.
Almost nothing can attract interest better than a well-constructed question. Readers will want to continue reading your essay in order to discover the answer. Be sure to avoid simple “Yes” or “No” questions and try to pose questions that ask reader to consider the other side or engage in some critical thinking.
“What would you do if you could play God for a day? That’s exactly what the leaders of the tiny island nation of Guam tried to answer.”
“Have you ever wondered, whether Anna Karenina still loved Alexei if she hadn’t decided to commit a suicide?”
People respond well to visual cues. Taking the time to set a detailed scene will help your reader have a clear picture in their minds and create an effective hook. You can describe an incident or detail the particular features of a person or a character to help the readers become immersed in your writing.
“The day of his birth began with Hurricane Charlie pounding at our door in Charleston, South Carolina.”
“Deciding to attend Hampton Roads Academy, a private school, was one of my most difficult decisions.”
These types of hooks start by surprising the reader with something that may not have known. Provide an interesting fact about something you are going to discuss in your essay’s body and your audience will want to keep reading to learn more.
“Spain, though hardly a literary juggernaut, translates more books in one year than the entire Arab world has in the past one thousand years.”
“Amiable is the best way to describe Elizabeth’s personality: she was friendly and caring.”
There is no harm in getting right to the point. Start with your main argument and use the rest of your essay to support your point of view. If you have an interesting take on a subject, readers will want to see where you came up with your idea.
“It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday. . .”
“Humans need to invest more time and money into space exploration because Earth is on a certain path to destruction.”
The most interesting essays will teach the readers something new. If you start your introduction by showing that a commonly accepted truth is actually false, your readers will be instantly hooked.
“Any parent will tell you that goldfish are a great first pet for a child. They hardly need any attention, and they won’t be around for too long. Flushing a goldfish in its first week is pretty common—it even happened to my first goldfish. But it turns out that goldfish aren’t as helpless as we all think.”
“While most coffee enthusiasts would tell you that their favorite drink comes from a bean, they would be wrong. Coffee is actually made from a seed that is simply called a bean.”
By listing proven facts at the very beginning of your paper, you will create interest that can be carried throughout the rest of the essay.
“The average iceberg weighs over 100,000 metric tons.”
“70% of all jobs found today were got through different networking strategies”
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Depending on the style of essay you are writing (narrative, persuasive, personal, critical, argumentative, deductive, etc.), the type of hook you will want to use will vary. Remember, your essay hook is just a tip of an iceberg and it will not guarantee that the rest of your essay will work. Be sure to organize your research and start with an outline before deciding on the best hook to start your essay. The right choice can make your paper truly interesting and worth reading.
Written by Lesley J. Vos, our blog writer and essay proofreader. Lesley is a big fan of reading, and she is always ready to help students come up with good ideas for their papers and reach their academic goals. You can always find her on Facebook and Google+.