In a 1971 fight, Joe Frazier famously floored boxing champ Muhammad Ali with a strong left hook, leading to Ali’s first ever professional loss in the boxing ring. This is most definitely not the source of the word “hook” in writing, but the analogy is as solid as Frazier’s punch. No matter what type of writing project you’re getting into right now, you need a strong hook that knocks your readers’ socks off and gets their attention.
When I talk about good hook sentences, I’m talking about that juicy string of words that make up the first sentence (or two) of your writing project—the words that grab your readers’ attention and don’t let go.
Good hook sentences say, “Drop everything you’re doing and read me right now,” without actually coming out and just saying that.
Writing good hook sentences is critical in all types of writing disciplines from essays and marketing copy to novels and short stories. Hooks are even used in song lyrics. I’m sure, on more than one occasion, you’ve fallen victim to an earworm (a set of lyrics that you can’t get out of your head). That’s because you got hooked. I got the eye of the tiger… oh…um, sorry, I wasn’t listening to Katy Perry, I swear!
Now, here’s the catch. There’s no single, tried and true formula to writing good hook sentences. There is no specific order of nouns, verbs, and adjectives that will get the job done. But when it comes time to KO your readers, this post will give you four simple steps to help you craft your perfect hook.
Good Hook Sentences Step 1—Identify Your Audience
Your hook sentence, just like the rest of your writing project, needs to speak to your specific audience. Getting the attention of a college professor is going to be a vastly different task than getting the attention of a group of stay-at-home moms, for example. Before you write your hook, ask yourself three key questions:
Question 1: Who is my audience?
It’s important to identify your audience no matter what type of writing project you’re working on. Doing so will help you select a message that speaks to them.
If you’re trying to get the attention of a bunch of middle school girls, for example, you either need to be Justin Bieber in the flesh or write a hook that is geared toward that age group.
If, however, your writing project is geared toward the admissions counselors at a prestigious university, you had better get a haircut, Bieber, and write your sentence appropriately.
Before setting out on this writing adventure, make note of your intended audience.
Question 2: Do I have a captive audience?
This question is important because it will help you better understand the purpose of your hook.
In the case of your teacher or an admissions counselor, you pretty much have a captive audience. They are being paid to read your writing. So the intention of your hook is to keep these people from falling asleep on the job, to entice them to give you a good grade, or to convince them to admit you into their institution.
If you’re writing a blog, a book, or marketing copy, then your audience is not captive, meaning they have a choice to read your work or not. Whether your writing appears online, at the bookstore, or on a publishing agent’s desk, your work is one second away from being skipped over in favor of the next piece of writing. In this scenario, a good hook is the lifeline of your writing.
Question 3: What matters to my audience?
Finally, you need to figure out what is important to your audience. Are they interested in solving a particular problem? Are they looking for a specific type of information? Do they want to know something interesting about you? Do they want to know that you understand a particular topic? Are they looking to be entertained?
Write down what matters to your audience. This will help you craft your ultimate hook sentence.
Good Hook Sentences Step 2—Identify the Purpose of Your Writing
The next important issue to determine is the purpose behind your writing. A good hook sentence must be consistent with your writing. You can’t just write an awesome sentence because it’s awesome, and then go off onto another topic entirely. That would just make you look like a crazy person.
For example, if you are writing an argumentative essay, your hook should reflect the strength of your argument, perhaps by stating a shocking fact. On the other hand, if you’re writing a love story, you might start off writing a sweet and romantic anecdote. And if you’re writing a frightening essay on the topic of nuclear warheads, you might select to begin with a chilling statistic.
When identifying your purpose, ask yourself these two questions:
Question 1: How do I want my audience to feel?
Your answer could be that you want them to feel frightened, or motivated to action, or warm and fuzzy like they have a cute puppy on their lap, or interested in your life story.
The point is to write a hook that elicits the types of feelings you want your audience to have.
Question 2: What do I want my audience to take away?
Your answer could be that you want them to be better educated on a certain topic, or that you want them to question reality, or that you want them to believe in love again.
A good hook will reflect the purpose of your writing and set the stage for how you want your audience to feel and what you want them to take away from your work.
Good Hook Sentences Step 3—Choose Your Hook Wisely
Just as there is more than one way to skin a cat (not that I would know–I like my cats with skin and fur on them), there is more than one way to write a compelling hook that will grab your readers’ attention.
Here are a few of those ways:
1. Tell a humorous anecdote.
2. Reveal a startling fact.
3. Give an inspirational quote.
These are only three of many types of hooks. I could go on and on and on, but instead I created a resource just for you that features 14 different types of hooks plus example sentences.
To get this awesome resource and start your ideas flowing, just enter your email in the box at the bottom right of this screen. Your exclusive hook sentences will be instantly sent to your inbox.
Good Hook Sentences Step 4—Craft Your Hook
Now that you’ve considered your audience, the purpose of your work, and settled on the type of hook you want to write, it’s time to make it shine. A good hook sentence will use only the right words and will be as polished and refined as possible.
Honestly, this is how you should approach writing all of your sentences, but if you only have one absolutely perfect sentence in your work, let it be your hook.
One more note: even though your hook sentence is your very first sentence, it’s a good idea to write it last. By writing it last, you can better capture the tone and purpose of your entire writing project.
Remember, a good hook sets up expectations about your writing, establishes your credibility as a writer, grabs your readers’ attention, and makes them eager to read your work. If you need inspiration, you might check out these 400,000 example essays. If you need help polishing your hook sentence, Kibin editors can help with that!
*Cover image credit: Spray flies from the head of challenger Joe Frazier, left, as heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali connects with a right in the ninth round of their title fight in Manila. (AP Photo/Mitsunori Chigita, File)
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
If someone is searching for a book or article to read, he or she will decide from the very beginning whether this work is worth attention. Ironically, the book can be an awesome piece of writing. If the opening lines are dull, a reader will unlikely keep reading the rest.
A hook in the essay is a catchy sentence or paragraph in the introduction which serves as an attention-grabbing element.
The effectiveness of the hook is defined by its ability to motivate people to read the entire text. A hook sentence is the most recommended way to start an academic paper of any type as it gives a hint of what the topic is and what kind of questions will be observed. It keeps the reading audience intrigued to the end.
An excellent hook sentence is engaging and interesting; it is a perfect method to start an argumentative or persuasive paper. The problem is that once students start, they forget to keep the rest of the paper interesting. It's important to define the target audience, thesis, and supporting arguments not to fall off the point. However, this article is focused on writing a hook; it is time to find out the ways a writer can pick the most appropriate attention grabber. View these great tips on writing a school/college essay to get more information.
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How to Write a Hook sentence?
Before we begin to talk about types of perfect essay hook, we want to mention several steps students should take to decide on which hook to choose.
How to write a good hook?
- You must have a clear vision of what kind of a literary work you are working on.
Definition, descriptive, and narrative essays differ from argumentative and critical essays a lot because they require different writing strategies. In the initial group of essays, you need to describe certain events or concepts, whether the second group requires you to use persuasive techniques to support your argument.
It allows writers to see how the work is structured better and which points to highlight.
- Understand who you are writing for.
Each cohort, each generation has its own language, and your primary task is to choose a particular way in which your work will develop. When you write for children, write for children. If you write for language professionals, take their specific language into account - it is an effective way to get an action plan and follow it.
- Realize why you are writing this essay.
If it is a paper on a complicated topic for a popular magazine, you can go funny and humorous, and your readers will love this approach. Yet, if you write a conference paper, be more formal. Good hooks must fit in your writing frame, your tone and style.
The answer to the question is 'no.' You can't use more than 1-2 hook sentences in your paper because you risk having high plagiarism level and making your reader lost. Try to choose only one powerful hook as the opening sentence of paper's introduction. You can also add a hook at the beginning of conclusion (learn how to write conclusion).
Let's Look at Some Catchy Hooks for Essays
START WITH AN INTERESTING FACT
"Archaeologists believe, based on marks they've seen on mummies, that human beings had tattoos between 4000 and 2000 B.C. in Egypt."(David Shields, 36 Tattoos)
Do you want to make the audience read your full text? Amaze them with the great introduction! Get them hooked with the help of a fact they have never heard and keep them interested throughout the entire work. Such hook sentences do not necessarily need specific figures. Check out this article: don't you want to learn more about where tattoos have come from and what they mean?
STATE A THESIS
"Few aspects of the American mythos form such a complex set of relationships with the African American experience as the idea of the frontier."(Pamela Swanigan, Much the Same on the Other Side: The Boondocks and the Symbolic Frontier)
If you have a great idea and you want to be straightforward and introduce it immediately because it is unique, do what you want. Why is this particular sentence so hooking? It intrigues the readers because using such a structure the author 'promises' she will tell us about something special. We are interested in the concept of frontier now.
Unlike other types of hook sentences, a thesis is something a writer is obligated to develop in every new paper - view the general structure here. That is why it is better to start with another hook to have two attention grabbers in the introduction.
PLACE YOUR FAVORITE LITERARY QUOTE
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."(J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)
It would be a good hook in an essay of several types: a writer can choose to focus on the value of time, review "The Fellowship of the Ring" storyline, or describe the character of Gandalf. A great hook is the one which has many different applications in one text.
QUOTE FAMOUS PEOPLE YOU BELIEVE ARE WISE
"Any achievement in business is never accomplished by a single person; a team of skilled members from diversified fields is always needed." (Steve Jobs)
The wisdom of this man has no doubts. People tend to believe every single word Steve Jobs says as he has achieved amazing results, wealthy being, and a new age of technology. Such people are worth listening. It is a good idea to start a paper on business, management, leadership, marketing, or even IT from these words.
PURCHASE CHEAP ESSAYS OF ANY TYPE
USE A GREAT STORY AS AN OPENING
"In late 1979, a twenty-four-year-old entrepreneur paid a visit to a research center in Silicon Valley called Xerox PARC. He was the co-founder of a small computer startup down the road, in Cupertino. His name was Steve Jobs."(Malcolm Gladwell, Creation Myth)
Do you need anything else to get hooked? It is a brilliant essay starter. Stories are always effective, but stories about famous people are on top. Do the research, read great people's biographies and find correlations with the theme of your writing. Give readers a nice story, and they will enjoy it.
SETA SCENE ANOTHER TIME
"The dark blue glitter was penetrating, leaving no space for creativity. In just one stare, Mary's eyes defined a lot about her true passion, her devotion and her commitment to her cause. Most of the employees that day left the corporation once launched by Mike Myers without saying a word, but feeling completely different people." (Unknown writer)
This category of good hooks is almost the same as the previously discussed attention-grabber. The goal of the writer is to describe a certain scene taken from the fiction story or real life. No matter what the topic is, it is the effective method used to make the readers not only think but feel the emotions of heroes.
ANECDOTE/JOKE TO MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH
"A Chukcha comes into a shop and asks: "Do you have color TVs?" "Yes, we do." "Give me a green one." (Unknown author)
Every day we learn different jokes from our colleagues, family, or friends. If you want to share these funny stories with your teacher or classmates, the best way is to use anecdotes as the relaxing hook sentences. They make people both laugh and feel less stressed. Humor is one of the keys to success in our life, and a good anecdote is not an exception. In our case, the anecdote may start a serious topic like the problems people with colorblindness experience. The anecdote can serve as an introduction to the research on stereotypes about Chukcha, especially their intellect. The same anecdote may open an essay on different types of humor.
STRIKE WITH NUMBERS AND STATISTICS
"According to 2008 figures from the Pew Research Center, 97% of today's K-12 students spend many hours each week playing video games."(Keith Devlin, Learning Math with a Video Game)
Every time you want to draw the audience's attention, start the intro paragraph with large numbers and interesting statistics. Demonstrate that you did extensive research and created a good basis for your discussion.
SURPRISE READERS BY REVEALING A COMMON MISCONCEPTION
"We all know that a tongue has several sections which are exclusively responsible for a particular taste: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The idea was disproven by other studies and research."
What can be more intriguing than finding out that an idea you have had in mind for years is wrong? This is a perfect trigger, and it will get your audience hooked in a second.
INVOLVE A CONTRADICTION
"Mrs. Lynch's freaky dress made me feel excited and disgusted at the same time; it was not the best choice."
Good hooks may include contradictions. The example shows a contradictive sentence combines opposite ideas/situations.
CREATE AN IMAGE, SIMILE, OR METAPHOR
"To make an omelet you need not only those broken eggs but someone 'oppressed' to beat them..." (Joan Didion, The Women's Movement)
Obviously, this isn't a recipe or a story about eggs. The writer starts with a very simple, everyday image, and then adds a drop of unpredictability - 'oppressed' ones to break the eggs. We call such sentence a fantastic starter and a great hook.
POSE A RHETORICAL QUESTION
"We all need food and water to live, don't we?" "People today know that the Earth is round, don't they?" "Children always find something new interesting, don't they?" "How much would you pay to save the life of your beloved ones?"
People think that all questions may have answers. There is a special type of questions known as rhetorical questions; they can be good hooks for essays on any topic. These questions have obvious answers. There is no need to explain why humans can't survive without food, how we learned that the planet is round, or why human life is priceless. It's just the way to let your reader think. It is an interesting way to start a paper on hate crime, life, existence, the universe, sense of life, moral or ethical values, etc.
ASK A QUESTION - GIVE AN ANSWER!
"Why do novelists write essays? Most publishers would rather have a novel."(Zadie Smith, The Rise of the Essay)
"What a nice question! We want to know the answer now, and we keep reading and reading and realize that we have finished the entire piece. Nothing is more hooking that a question that interests lots of people. Don't be afraid to use this trick if you want people to get sincerely interested in your academic writing.
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