How to Write a Good Hook for Your Essay

Last updated: July 2019

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

And you have to find a perfect hook for your essay even when you don’t know what to write.

The #1 prejudice most students have on essay writing: it’s time-consuming, difficult, and bo-o-oring.

False.

When teachers ask you to write an essay, they don’t want to ban your creativity. An essay shouldn’t be boring or too formal but make readers want to check its every word. And your task is grabbing and keeping their attention throughout your writing.

An essay hook is that particular instrument you need to meet this challenge.

hooked-cats

image: Gratisography

What is an Essay Hook?

“An essay hook is 1-2 opening sentences of your paper. They serve to capture readers’ attention and help them decide if they want to continue reading your text.

We call it a “hook” because it reminds a shiny lure that fishermen use to catch a fish. And, depending on the fish they want to catch, they will use different hooks.

Do not confuse hooks with introductions! An essay hook opens your introduction rather than substitutes it. Once you’ve hooked readers, be sure to introduce your essay topic and thesis.

essay-introduction

  • A hook. Write a strong opening sentence capturing readers’ attention.
  • A topic. Tell readers about the focus of your essay.
  • A thesis. State your opinion on the topic.

Essays and college papers are not alone in hooks. Fiction writers, copywriters, bloggers, screenwriters, and other men of letters use this instrument to gain our interest and influence our decisions. Did you hear about David Ogilvy and his timeless lessons to writing and standing out? He’s a true genius of hooks and persuasion!

Essay hooks can be difficult to generate, especially if you are still in the process of thesis clarification. The first step toward writing an eye-catching opening for your essay would be answers to these questions:

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

A PRO TIP: Write a hook and introduction after you’ve finished the whole essay. It will help to clarify a thesis and understand what type of hooks would fit your work better.

To get a better idea of what a terrific introduction looks like, watch the video tutorial from James, who defines essay hooks as grabbers.

Essay Hooks Ideas

So, what types of opening lines can you use as a good hook for an essay?

1) Literary Quotes

This type of hooks works for essays about writers, literature phenomena, books, etc. Start your essay with a quote from books you review, and it will establish your authority as a writer.

Examples:

essay-hooks-examples

2) Quotes From Famous People

To support your argument and create a lip-smacking hook for your essay, start it with a quote from famous people. But make sure it’s relevant to your topic and thesis.

Examples:

essay-hooks-examples

That’s all well and fine but…

Some teachers consider this type of essay hooks too general and overused. They discourage college papers started or finished with words of influencers, not students themselves. So, if you decide to use such a hook, find a rare yet relevant quote. Don’t copy-paste the first available saying from top quotations websites.

3) Common Misconception

You may start your introduction with a statement about a commonly accepted truth being false. That will intrigue your audience and encourage them to keep on reading.

Examples:

  • “Most Americans mistakenly believe that all rice is essentially the same.”
  • “Most coffee addicts would tell you their favorite drink comes from a bean, but they are wrong. Coffee is made from a seed called a bean.”

4) Anecdotes

“An anecdote is a little story designed to illustrate a point you are trying to make.

This hook is appropriate to use if you write narrative or descriptive essays. Don’t be afraid of writing funny openings, as it doesn’t mean your essay has to be humorous too. A little humor helps to grab readers’ attention and spark their interest in the topic.

Your anecdote should be short and to the point. Make sure it relates to the main idea of your essay.

Examples:

essay-hooks-example

Remember that most essay assignments don’t allow to write from the first person. Be sure to check the requirements before using “I” in your writing.

5) Personal Stories

This hook is perfect for personal narratives or college application essays, though you would hardly use it for argumentative or too formal persuasive papers. Ask your professor if you can use personal pronouns in your writing, and hook readers with a personal story which not necessarily should be yours.

You can tell the story of your friend, relative, or president. Why not, after all?

Examples:

essay-hooks-examples

But please, don’t start your essay with a hook like “I was thinking about what to write for this essay and came up with this.”

Teachers hate it! Sure, this hook is better than no hook at all, but it will never distinguish your work from the crowd.

6) Statistics

Use statistical data to hook readers with new facts they might not have been known. Be sure to include the source.

Examples:

  • “People lie in 1 out of 5 conversations lasting more than 10 minutes, according to Allison Komet from the Psychology Today magazine.”
  • “70% of all jobs found today were got through different networking strategies.”
  • “Fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce.”
  • “The average iceberg weighs over 100,000 metric tons.”

Do research to find data on your topic. Refer to sources your teacher would consider reliable.

7) Questions

This type of hooks can help you create a reader’s personal interest in your essay and wish to continue reading it. But don’t make your question too general.

Let’s say you write an essay about smartphones. Asking a question a la “Do you have a smartphone?” will hardly grab readers’ attention because it doesn’t engage them in critical thinking.

So, try to avoid questions expecting simple Yes or No answers.

Examples:

essay-hooks-examples

Rhetorical questions could be a good idea for essay hooks.

As well as quotes from famous people, they are easy to create and, therefore, overused too. You’ll need to wind up your brain to impress a reader and make that question catchy.

8) Fact/Definition

This hook can surprise a reader with something they might not have known. Interesting facts about what you are going to discuss in your essay will intrigue your audience and make them want 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.”

Be careful with definitions! Your professor will hardly like your essay opening if you copy it from a dictionary. So, if you decide to start an essay with a definition related to your topic, avoid something like this:

  • “Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘truth’ as ‘the state of being the case; factual; the body of real things, events, and facts’.”

A bold pronouncement, outrageous statement, or exaggeration will help you hook readers, too.

Examples:

  • “If you say you’ve never told a lie, then you’re lying.”
  • “Cigarettes are the primary cause of cancer.”
  • “If the government cuts any more money from education, the entire country will crumble.”

9) Scenes

People are visually-oriented. Depending on the type and length of your essay, “draw” a scene in your hook to help readers “see” a clear picture in mind.

Decide on a scene that would appeal to senses and set the mood for your essay.

Examples:

essay-hooks-examples

10) Thesis Statement

There is no harm in getting right to the point. Start with your argument and support your point of view throughout the essay. 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 to reveal the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is that Thanksgiving is 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.”

So many hooks, so many essays. The logical question appears: how do you know what type of openings in the introduction would fit your paper best?

Well, you might ask our writers to help you or continue reading this post to get more tips on writing hooks for your essay.

How to Choose a Good Hook for Your Essay

With so many types of essay hooks, you wonder how to choose the right one for your particular paper. The problem is, there’s no single formula here. To know what hook to consider, keep in mind the following:

Depending on who reads your essay, one and the same message will speak in different ways to them.

It’s clear that a hook you use to attract a college girl would hardly help you spark the interest of a college admission counselor. So, the first question to answer before going on the writing road is:

  • Who is my audience? Whom do I want to target with my essay?

Then, try to figure out what matters to your readers and what they expect to get from the essay.

  • Do they read it to solve a problem?
  • Do they want to learn interesting facts about you?
  • Do they need distinctive information on the topic?
  • Do they want to see that you understand a subject?

Once you’ve nailed it down, you’ll know what types of hooks will work for this particular writing.

cat-typing-gif

Source: Giphy

The type of hooks that would fit your paper best depends on the essay type, either.

For example, anecdotes don’t work for writing a critical précis, but they would catch readers of dialectic essays. Quotes and questions are perfect hooks for novel critiques or persuasive essays, while facts or statistics fit argumentative essays best.

Don’t start your essay with a great hook simply because it’s great. It should be relevant to your topic, thesis, and purpose of your paper.

Questions to answer before choosing an essay hook:

  • How do I want my readers to feel?
  • What do I want my readers to learn?

Depending on feelings you want to evoke, an essay hook may be some shocking statistics, a romantic personal story, a funny anecdote, a motivational quote, etc.

Depending on the purpose of your writing, make an essay hook reflect it. Common misconceptions or outrageous statements may encourage readers to learn something new, while catchy questions would engage in critical thinking or motivate.

Conclusion

Essays are many. Narrative, persuasive, argumentative, or descriptive – they all need hooks, aka grabbers to attract readers to your writing. These grabbers are many, either. To choose the best one for your paper, consider a type of your essay, its audience, and their needs.

And remember:

No matter how strong they are, hooks alone can’t guarantee A+ grades for your writing assignments. State a thesis, organize research on the topic, and outline your essay before choosing a grabber for it. Opening lines lead the way of your papers and make them worth reading.

55 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.

    1. I disagree with the Grammar Soldier that one cannot ask the reader a direct question in a hook. A rhetorical question is one way to get the reader’s attention if it is posed well. It works because it draws the reader into becoming an interactive participant. Rhetorical questions are recognized as being useful, especially in the art of persuasive speaking and writing.

  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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    Please let me know. Many thanks

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  15. THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!!!
    I was so stuck thanks to this website… I had best essay in class, and I don’t know what I would of done without this website.

  16. I have to write about two pages for creative writing. Do you have any ideas that I could use, or a topic for by paper? Thank you!.

  17. It’s really important to grab attention of the reader and it can be achieved only first few sentences. If first sentences didn’t interest the reader, he won’t read the essay till the end.

  18. First of all I would like to say terrific blog!I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.

    I have had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts ouut there. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Many thanks!

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  20. This helped a lot, I spent a very long time thinking on how to start my essay before I saw this! Like some others, my teachers do not approve of using a question to start writing pieces because it seems too childish. Other than that, I think this article was great!

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    Hester

  22. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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