How to Write a Good Hook for Your Essay

Updated February 2016

“You have to make choices even when there is nothing to choose from.”
― Péter Zilahy

writing hook

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.

An essay hook is the first one or two sentences of your essay. It serves as an introduction and works to grab the reader’s attention. The first couple sentences will help your reader decide whether they want to continue reading your essay or not.

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.

Consider the overall presentation of your work:

  • What type of essay are you writing?
  • What type of writing style and tone will you need to use?
  • Who is your intended audience?
  • What kind of structure do you need to establish?

Essay hooks ideas

  1. A literary quote
  2. 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.

    Examples:

    “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…”

  3. Quotes from Famous People
  4. 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.

    Examples:

    “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.

  5. Anecdote
  6. 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.

    Examples:

    “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.

  7. Pose a Question
  8. 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.

    Examples:

    “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?”

  9. Set a Scene
  10. 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.

    Examples:

    “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.”

  11. Include an Interesting Fact or Definition
  12. 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.

    Examples:

    “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.”

  13. State Your Thesis
  14. 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.

    Examples:

    “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.”

  15. Reveal a Common Misconception
  16. 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.

    Examples:

    “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.”

  17. Statistics
  18. 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.

    Examples:

    “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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Conclusion

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.

image source: WikiHow

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+.

27 thoughts on “How to Write a Good Hook for Your Essay

  1. This article has helped me a lot understanding how to write an attractive HOOK !
    Thanks a lot for this good methods 🙂

    1. Yeah, me too I WAS! stuck on thinking for a hook until I found this website!
      Thanks for this website its is now going to be easy for me to write this down.
      The book Im going to make a hook on is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
      🙂

  2. A good hook doesn’t use you. You need to stay in 3rd person instead of trying to tell a reader what to do and yes or no questions are to easy for readers. They can easy shy away from your essay. Just a few up to date tips
    😉

    1. Now that depends on the type of essay you write. I’m currently writing one and “you” and “I” are big factors and elements in this. To hook a reader, personally, I think that facts won’t do the trick. You need to show them what you think and thats what the supporting paragraphs are for.

  3. Don’t say i think, i believe, or anything that basically begins with i. saying that makes you sound not decided on your topic.

  4. I don’t start my essays with a question because some teachers think it is a childish way of beginning an essay, but definitions often make a great hook. Just make sure to cite where you got the definition.

  5. So I found this as good information but I am going in to Honors 9 English this following year and I have certain requirements for this essay. I am not allowed to use a question or quote for my introduction. I think that maybe you could go more in depth with the steps. I think that these were some really good ideas and techniques. Thank you for the information.

  6. Part of the question hook was wrong. You can not ask the reader a question directly, for they can not answer it. This weakens an otherwise strong hook. For example, if you state “have you ever wondered, whether Anna Karenina still loved Alexei if she hadn’t decided to commit a suicide” you should say “would Anna Karenina still love Alexei if she hadn’t decided to commit a suicide” instead.

  7. My teacher told me to write a hook with an anecdote but I have no idea on what to write. The topic is What makes an individual powerful?

  8. Well summarised article on hooks, but cheated by using a drawing as a hook. Just felt the need to put it out there. No offence intended

  9. This is a fantastic article! Even though I do not agree with some of the ways to start an essay, this made me think of some great hooks!

  10. You didn’t really explain how to write a hook step by step, you only gave examples. But it’s still helped me a lot, so it’s ok.

  11. This has been a great help! I was stuck on what were writing hooks because our teachers never really mentioned it yet until now! I could have made better essays if i had known earlier. 😉

  12. it would be super helpful if you made a post similar to this for CONCLUSIONS! I’m always stuck on conclusion hooks since in our essays we aren’t allowed to use 1st person

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