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“Details matter. It’s worth waiting to get it right.” – Steve Jobs, founder of Apple
When you’re writing an essay—whether it’s narrative, descriptive, expository, or persuasive—it’s important to pay attention to details and get it right. That starts with the opening sentence.
From the very beginning of your piece, you need to pull in your reader. You can do this with an essay hook.
- This blog started with what is known as a quotation hook. Read on to learn more about different types of essay hooks, how to use them, the various sources for hooks, and how to make your opening “pop” to keep your readers engaged.
Composing a good essay might seem like a backwards process. First, write the essay or outline, then determine what hook makes the most sense to open your essay.
After that, write a few sentences for your introduction, and then close your first paragraph with a single thesis statement.
What is a hook?
The hook is the opening statement of your essay. This might be a single sentence or a few sentences that grab the reader’s attention from the very beginning.
- Your essay, as a whole, should offer your best work in a well-written, engaging package.
- The hook needs to set the scene early, hitting the reader with information that captures their interest right from the start.
When considering how to compose a hook, think about the content of the essay. The hook is a strong start to your essay, and the rest of the essay should follow suit with clean, clear, and creative writing.
Also, keep in mind who will be reading your essay.
- There are many types of hooks, but which one is right for you and the content you are presenting?
- Will the reader be open to something humorous? Will a famous quote provide a great lead for your essay, and will it create a clear connection?
- If you start with a question, does the reader get the answer by the end of the essay?
The hook is short but significant. Here is an example of a hook for someone writing about homelessness among college students:
“Fourteen percent of four-year college students are homeless, and 48 percent are house insecure, according to the Hope Center for College Community and Justice. Hopefully, I’ll be one of them.”
What’s the difference between a hook and an introduction?
We’ve established that the essay hook is brief but powerful. The hook is not synonymous with the introduction, and should not replace it.
Where the hook is a succinct statement that draws in your reader, the introduction more formerly leads to your topic and purpose. Creativity is an important component of your introduction, but the introduction more clearly states where you’ll take the reader through the rest of the essay.
This introduction adds to the hook previously mentioned:
“Rising tuition, poor financial aid packages, and too few affordable housing options have dramatically increased the percentage of homeless or house insecure college students in recent years. Students who work hard and want the opportunity to attend college are unable to afford shelter and food, often causing them to withdraw from school.”
By opening with the statistic hook and the follow-up statement, we know this student is homeless and plans to attend college. The hook grabs the reader’s attention.
In the next few sentences, the introduction provides the direction for the rest of the essay. There are several factors that lead to homelessness and home-insecurity among college students. These factors will be explored in the essay.
What’s the difference between a hook and a thesis statement?
A thesis statement, typically situated at the end of the essay’s first paragraph, clearly states and summarizes the argument you are presenting on your essay topic. This will drive the rest of your paper.
Given the example above, here is a thesis statement to follow the hook and introduction:
“This needs to stop now. Our government must provide more realistic options and resources for motivated students to improve their situations with a college education.”
This thesis provides the writer’s point of view on the topic, and further sheds light on the angle of the essay.
How can I brainstorm a great hook?
When you compose your essay outline or complete the essay, you’ll have a better feel for what type of hook works best for your opening.
There are plenty of ideas to choose from. Here are some of our favorites:
- Anecdote — Tell the reader a short, memorable story. An anecdote should be a brief, true story about a person or event. This can be tricky to accomplish in a few short sentences, but if the story is succinct and impactful, it will create the perfect stage for the rest of your essay.
- Quotation — Often, a quotation hook is from a famous source, for example, a president, social activist, philosopher, actor, etc. This blog opened with a quote from Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. If you choose a quotation hook, be sure to state and attribute the quote accurately. Also, make sure that it relates to your topic and provides a smooth transition into your essay.
- Question — If you choose to write a question hook, be sure that it does not lead to a yes or no answer. The question should set up the start of your essay, and should only be answered by the reader when they finish your essay. People are inquisitive, so if you provide a thought-provoking question at the start of your essay, it will catch their attention.
- Statistics — The right statistics are impressive, effective, and staggering. Choose statistics that showcase your knowledge, back up your essay theme, or are relatable to your reader. Make sure you check your sources and attribute the statistics for accuracy.
- Declarative statement — The declarative statement opens your essay with a strong statement that provides your view about a topic up front, and follows with your reasoning in the rest of the essay. While the reader does not need to agree with your statement, they should gain an understanding of why you feel the way you do by reading the essay.
What are sources for great hooks?
Now that you’ve determined what type of hook you want to use, it’s time to find the right information.
If you’re considering opening with an anecdote, first think about what incredible personal stories you have tucked away that might provide a compelling start to your essay.
- An anecdote is a true story about a person or event that works best in a nonfiction or informal essay.
- Other anecdotes might come from recent stories you’ve read in newspapers or magazines.
- Think about what you’re trying to say with your short story. Are you trying to be humorous, prove a point, or set the tone? Is this a personal story, or someone’s else’s experience? How can you tell it quickly and effectively?
Oftentimes, a well-chosen quote will perfectly convey the point you want to get across at the very start. Use that quote to your advantage!
- You might find a captivating quote in popular literature, historical documents, or current events. The Internet has made it extremely easy to search for quotes that apply to your essay topic.
- Determine what key word you want to search. For example, consider quotes about evolution, and then sift through collections of famous quotes that introduce your essay in an amazing way. Always check for accuracy!
When using a question hook, think about a way to present your question in an intriguing and thought-provoking way.
- As previously stated, choose a question that is not a “yes” or “no” answer, but makes the reader stop and think about the topic you are presenting.
There are great sources to search for statistics.
- Current news stories, magazines, blogs, investigative journalism, websites for established organizations, etc., provide compelling and accurate statistics that create a strong start to your essay and support your thesis.
- Our previous example on homeless and home-insecure college students came from a recent USA Today For most readers, the percentage of homeless students is likely shocking. The statistics also transition perfectly into the introduction and thesis of that essay.
A declarative statement is a great hook to use in a persuasive essay.
- Carefully think about your position on your topic and how you want to present that in your essay. This is similar to a thesis statement because you are taking a strong position on your topic.
- Your statement should be clear and succinct, and the rest of your essay should support that statement.
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How do I choose the right hook for my essay?
Choosing the best hook for your essay depends on the type of essay you are writing and the tone your essay will take.
There are dozens of different types of essays. We mentioned four of the most common essays at the start of the blog—narrative, descriptive, critical, and persuasive.
A narrative essay tells a true story in the first person. Because you are telling a story, an anecdote works well as your essay hook.
- This opening gives you an opportunity to start the essay with a compelling, short personal story that leads into your full essay. A question hook also is a good choice for a narrative essay.
- You can set up the scene of your essay with a question that makes the reader stop and think, for example, “How would you react if you met your mother for the first time on a six-hour plane ride when you were thirteen years old?”
A descriptive essay works to help the reader visualize something through descriptive writing. Depending on the scene you are trying to set, or the tone of your essay, almost any hook can work.
An anecdote can quickly develop a setting, and a well-developed question will provoke the reader to stop and think. A great quote can frame your essay through someone else’s famous words, and strong statistics will provide an interesting or shocking statement that you can build from in your essay.
A critical or expository essay is an informative look at your topic. This essay relies on facts and analytics, so a statistical hook is a perfect opening.
Look at the information available on your topic, and choose the most interesting, unusual, shocking, or effective statistic to set up your essay. Always check for accuracy!
Many hooks also work well for persuasive essays, which work to build up the reasons the reader should take your position on the topic presented.
- The right anecdote, quote, question, statistic, or declarative statement can be used to set up your argument or point of view in the essay.
- Remember the argument or point you are making, and be sure that the hook you choose to use clearly makes that point.
This should provide a smooth transition into the body of your persuasive essay.
What are tips for writing a great hook?
You want to develop a strong start for your essay. To write the best hook, keep these tips in mind:
- Know the goal of your essay.
- Know your audience.
- Create an outline of your essay to make sure everything flows.
- Think about stories that draw your attention and how the writer is able to do it.
- Set the scene for your essay.
- Set the tone of your essay.
- Determine what structure you want to establish.
- Check your facts, statistics, and quotes for accuracy.
- Write your essay hook last.
How do I make a great hook for a college essay?
The top colleges and universities have become more selective than ever as acceptance rates continue to break records in recent years. What does this mean for you?
It means it’s important to stand out.
Your test scores, achievements, recommendations, and volunteer work are certainly important. But, where college admissions teams will truly see your personality and drive is in your college essay. And, even then, your essay has to make an impact from the start.
- As admissions counselors sift through thousands of college essays, they often can tell from the first few sentences if they like what you have to offer or not.
- So, it’s more important than ever to land the hook in your college essay.
This is your chance to illustrate to colleges what you’re all about, and to show off your writing skills. Colleges and universities want to know you and what motivates you in your college essay.
It’s important to avoid formality and focus on creativity.
- While your hook and introduction should still provide a clear direction and theme for your essay, you should write them in your own unique way, emphasizing your writing style.
Save the formality for classroom writing, and spend your time developing a hook and introduction that makes your essay sing your unique song.
The hook for your college essay should be personal and creative to show the college of your choice what makes you stand out from the crowd.
What are examples of great hooks?
Developing a great hook for your essay is as unique and creative as the writer and essay topic. Here are some examples of great hooks:
Using an anecdote hook:
This is a short, personal story that introduces the writer’s experience in the Paralympics.
“At five years old, I lost my ability to walk after a freak accident attempting to ride my bike. You would think I’d never want to get on a bike again. But meeting the right person who helped me develop the right mindset led me to win a cycling event in the Paralympics.”
Using a quotation hook:
These are two very different quotes that could introduce an essay on evolution, depending on your thesis:
“Evolution is a theory, and it’s a theory that you can test. We’ve tested evolution in many ways. You can’t present good evidence that says evolution is not a fact.” Bill Nye the Science Guy
“I’m all about evolution. I’m the first person to judge myself.” The Weeknd, singer/songwriter
Using a question hook:
Think about a question that can present your topic in a new light. If you’re writing an essay on the Civil War, for example, you could start with:
“What would our country look like today if the South won?”
That is certainly an interesting question to ponder, and it will grab the interest of your reader as they try to determine where the remainder of your essay will go.
Rhetorical questions also work well as an opening to an essay. Rhetorical questions can have obvious answers, or no clear answer. For example:
“Do you want to be successful?” (Rhetorical question with an obvious answer)
“What is the meaning of life?” (Rhetorical question with no unanimous answer)
Both of these examples should pull the reader in by piquing their curiosity.
Using a statistic hook:
If you are writing an expository or persuasive essay on opioid use, many government sites or news articles provide excellent quotes:
“In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of opioid use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“In Pennsylvania alone, 29,610 doses of Naloxone were administered by EMS from January 2018 to December 2019.”
Conclusion: How to write an awesome hook
Now that we’ve covered the types of essay hooks, how to write them, where to look for sources, and tips to make your hook shine, it’s time to get writing!
Remember, you have lots of options to choose from. Be sure to check up on different sources before deciding on an interesting hook.
If you have any questions, let us know!