When your English language professor requires to write an essay, how do you begin your writing? Do you use any good hooks in the introductory paragraphs to grab readers' attention? Probably, you have discovered a secret, unique great hook which helps your paper stand out from other works. Different types of essay hooks exist. High school and college students along with creative writers use them to grab their readers' attention.
WHAT DO WE DEFINE AN ESSAY HOOK?
Before you learn how to write a good hook, you must learn what it is. A hook is an interesting and catchy sentence from the introduction of your high school or college essay which motivates people to read your work. Although it is a rather small element, a perfect hook is both informative and engaging. It has a deep meaning and helps a writer introduce his or her main idea.
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TIPS ON FINDING THE BEST HOOK
We decided to analyze some examples of essay openings to provide you with an idea of how effective hooks look like. First, we would like to discuss a number of important ideas you should keep in mind before you write a hook.
A common mistake is that students give a great starter...and forget that it's a part of a paper. Don't jump to discussing your paper topic without demonstrating a clear bonding between the opening lines and the rest of the paper. Words are powerful; yet, if they aren't related to your work, they can't support your argument.
Tone and style of your work mean everything. If you are working on a research paper in physics to offer it to a scientific journal, it is better not to start with a personal childhood story. The hook should be strong and appropriate. Yet, if you are writing for a magazine which is less official, then the childhood story will sound quite natural. Evaluate the situation first!
Consider your target audience. Obviously, you shouldn't write an essay for professionals in biology using teenage language. They understand the text, but they are unlikely to get the purpose of your writing.
These strategies to developing good hooks are the key because every author's main purpose is to make readers understand his or her opinion and enjoy the overall reading.
HOOKS TO USE IN ESSAYS
Mind where the good hooks come from. You might want to type in a curious fact on the topic which is unknown to most of the people. Find different facts in various sources such as:
- Textbooks and books
- Academic and scientific journals
- Official published reports
- Documentaries and films
Remember that the more recent and credible source you use, the more trustworthy your essay's hook sounds.
To help you better understand how hook sentences function in writing, we are going to discuss several really nice articles written by professional writers and journalists. We look only at the intros of our examples and describe the kind of hooks found in each one.
KEEP THEM READING BY STARTING WITH AN INTERESTING FACT
The first good example of high knowledge is the quote taken as a hook from the credible online resources that publish up-to-date information on the most critical and discussed topics within society. People find it intriguing that:
"Over 36% of mobile subscribers use iPhones or iPads to read email, and 34% of subscribers only use mobile devices to read emails."(Informz)
Such statistics help perspective business people to launch their own mobile solutions in the upcoming year. Not all teachers and professors support the active usage of internet/digital resources, so you must specify whether such way to introduce your hook and the first paragraph is OK. Then, you move to the discussion on why mobile applications are perspective products/business ideas.
"There are two distinct traditions in the literature regarding the proper analysis of predicate noun and adjective constructions..."
(John Bowers, The Syntax of Predication)
In the given example we have an official, scientific paper which cannot be humorous or start with a creative trope. On the contrary, this intro is rather straightforward. And, nevertheless, it contains a nice hook - a conflict. 'Two distinct traditions' means that we will see how the author either supports one of them or introduces the third solution to the existing problem. Presenting conflicting ideas is always an excellent way to start.
ANECDOTE OR A JOKE WOULD BE HELPFUL
ESL/EFL classroom offers many anecdotes on various subjects to help students cover any topic with a share of humor. The examples of essay hooks below catch an eye of the reader by making him laugh.
"A family of mice were surprised by a big cat. Father Mouse jumped and said, "Bow-wow!" The cat ran away. "What was that, Father?" asked Baby Mouse. "Well, son, that's why it's important to learn a second language."
Isn't it a great idea to start your paper on the importance of learning a secondary language? Mind that each country has its specific humor and forbidden jokes. Choose the hook sentences wisely!
POSING QUESTIONS IN THE BEGINNING
You may play with facts and statistics to combine them into the question. You may use rhetorical question too. It is a great way to start your writing and give an overall picture of what you'll be talking about. Make sure to provide an answer throughout your text or at the end.
"Have you ever thought how many people die of pneumonia every day in the United States?"
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HOW TO WRITE A HOOK OF THE MIXED TYPE
Here we go with the mixed example:
"As children's culture arose in the 1740s, the juvenile market was suddenly awash in age-appropriate clothing, toys, and reading material..."
(Megan A. Norcia, Puzzling Empire: Early Puzzles and Dissected Maps as Imperial Heuristics)
This beginning is a good example of how a fact can be used in an intro. Readers tend to pay attention to those works which provide them with new information, and starting with a date and an interesting fact is a brilliant hooking idea.
"Why some people choke and others panic."
(Malcolm Gladwell, The Art of Failure)
We definitely love this intro. Short, clear, and very powerful. Although there is no question mark at the end, the intro above belongs to the category of 'posing a question.' We mean that the author opened the essay with a statement which promises the answer if we keep reading. We know the article is on the failure and the ways people react to it. The rhetorical question-like intro is truly hooking because the majority of readers will want to know why some people choke and other people panic.
A fact or question works well with the analysis paper. Find out how to write an analysis essay which deserves A+.
A LITERARY QUOTE AS THE WAY TO EXPRESS YOURSELF
Another great essay hook might be an original philosophical or social phrase to grab the attention. Think of any sentence or paragraph which can force your readers to think. Try to help arise necessary questions and social problems by your speech.
"Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity."
(Joan Didion, After Life)
If the style of writing allows you to be creative, look for an unusual, original way to express the main theme of your paper with the help of such good hooks for essays. Here, Joan Didion starts with her own poem which 'tunes' readers and let them know in advance what the whole text is about.
Mind the way you format quotes depends on different academic writing styles.
SET A SCENE
Try to memorize an example of a very brief story from famous people to capture the attention of your reader. Such essay's hook points to the importance of the topic or question with the help of a real-life example. The best examples include recalling the story of Helen Keller who managed to write beautiful books being blinded from her birth. You may use a story of some celebrity like Bon Jovi to stress the importance of helping disabled people financially and morally by attending them in the hospitals. When you write an essay, you are not supposed to recall only examples from your life. You are encouraged to share stories of people who figure as your role models. They don't have to be very famous, but their stories should serve as the perfect essay hook related to your chosen topic.
"After smiling brilliantly for nearly four decades, I now find myself trying to quit. Or, at the very least, seeking to lower a wattage a bit."
(Amy Cunnigham, Why Women Smile)
Reader deals with a perfect personal story. Readers want to know more about each story's main character because they try to find new emotions and new knowledge. Do you know why she has no intention to smile anymore? Is it hooking enough? We think so. Such beginnings are always attention grabbing and exciting.
In case you write an essay on such trait as jealousy, you may quote a well-known book by Shakespeare, "Othello," which is primarily focused on the problems caused by this feeling. Show how Othello is afraid of losing Desdemona, his wife, because of the color of his skin, religion, and other stereotypes.
I crave fit disposition for my wife.
Due reference of place and exhibition
With such accommodation and besort
As levels with her breeding"(Act1.Scene 3)
In Act 2, Scene 1, we discover more about the topic of jealousy from the character of Iago who has an evil mind due to his friend's Othello's success.
QUOTES FROM FAMOUS PEOPLE
Actually, many of the essay hook examples quoted above can be put into this category. However, there are phrases well-known by the entire world. Once something critical happens, famous people always have their point of view. They share it with the society via mass media. It is your chance to find another great essay hook. The first example appears below:
"The problem with environmentalists, Lynn Margulis used to say, is that they think conservation has something to do with biological reality."
(Charles C. Mann, State of the Species)
Another clever way to hook people is to use quotes from famous people. With a quote, your writing makes a certain statement and helps you establish your authority as a writer. You demonstrate your connection with the community and show great interest in the field history and respect towards people who have made a large contribution to its development.
GOOD HOOKS FOR ESSAYS IN THE SHAPE OF SIMILE OR METAPHOR
You should practice using metaphors and similes as the way to start your essay with an interesting hook. Watch out - many people do not tend to get the meaning of metaphors and similes from the first time, so it is better to add a description or explanation of what it means. Otherwise, you risk losing your audience instead of grabbing its attention. A good metaphor helps enrich one's speech and make the writing more powerful in terms of words.
As written by Dan Wakefield,
"I feel as much of a stud as... I can't come up with a metaphor. That's how lacking in studliness I am."
A simile is a literary tool often used as an essay hook. It also shows writer's ability to express feelings and ideas in many different, original ways rather than being straightforward all the time. To understand similes better, a student has to read a lot of plays, poems, song lyrics, and take part in everyday conversations.
The several examples below are helpful when writing your essay hook:
- "as cute as a puppy" (contrasting something to the adorableness of a puppy)
- "as busy as a bee" (describing very industrious people)
- "as snug as a bug in a rug" (meaning tucked up tight)
OTHER GREAT WAYS TO START YOUR SENTENCE
There are other ways to begin you writing such as stating a thesis and using statistics and numbers. You are the one to decide which option is the most effective. Don't forget to take the preparatory steps and figure out which kind of hook is the most beneficial.
Although we have added some great sentences which you can use as a topic hook, it is still not easy to grab attention to your story from the first essay's line. Thus, we would like you to remember there is an immediate solution to any academic writing problem in the shape of our website with services for high school, college, and university students. When you don't have time to type the whole paper or think of the relevant anecdote or scene to begin with, our writing services are always ready to help with your learning process. Order a custom essay or research paper with the most effective hooks you've ever seen!
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There are authors who have such fantastic first lines that they grab reader’s interest from the very first line. Take Jeffrey Eugenides for example:
“On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide-it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese—the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope,” (from The Virgin Suicides).
This guest post is by Ann Garvin. Garvin is the author of I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around. She earned her MS from Madison in exercise physiology, and a PhD in exercise and health psychology, hoping to understand how physical activity effects the brain. She has been teaching in the University of Wisconsin system since 1990, and is now a full tenured professor. She is a sought after speaker and educator at writers conferences and festivals, and also holds an adjunct Master’s of Fine Arts’ position at Southern New Hampshire University. She is the author of the previous titles On Maggie’s Watch and The Dog Year. Find her at Facebook or Twitter @anngarvin_.
Or, there’s Cheryl Strayed first sentence from Wild:
“The trees were tall, but I was taller, standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California. Moments before, I’d removed my hiking boots and the left one had fallen into those trees, first catapulting into the air when my enormous backpack toppled onto it, then skittering across the gravelly trail and flying over the edge.”
But it isn’t the first sentences that made these books best sellers it was the author’s ability to hook readers and keep them hooked. If a writer wants a writing career we need to practice the craft of both hooking and keeping; it’s not about the one night stand, it’s about the relationship.
When I wanted to write an essay about my difficult relationship with my brother I had to figure out a way to make it interesting to other people so I turned to these 10 elements to keep the story rolling. Here are the elements that were taken into account every step of the way when writing the essay:
- Begin at a pivotal moment
- Add an unusual situation.
- Add an intriguing character
- Add an antagonist
- Change emotion
- Irony and surprise
- Make People Wonder
- Dread Factor
- Keep narrative voice compelling
Now, here is the essay separated by each element so you can see how to incorporate into your own story:
A Summer Place by Ann Garvin
When my older brother Ray put Jamie Lockhart into a coma it changed my life but it took me forty-five years to figure out how.
Begin at a pivotal moment
When I was twelve my family moved from one-hour outside of New York City to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and one-hour away from a JC-Penny’s. We were raised Presbyterian, but because we had the distinct hallow-eye’d look of Ann Frank and everyone else in the White Pine, looked very Scandinavian, we became the town’s diversity—before diversity was a good thing.
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Add an unusual situation.
I coped by being careful and good and funny which was like an invisibility cloak in high school but as much as I tried to blend in, my older brother Ray stood out in the most threatening way possible for a good girl and that was as a bad boy.
At home we called him, Open Crab Face sandwich because I don’t think douche bag was a recognizable slur at that time. I used to say that my brother suffered from a case of severe assholishness, but I said it quietly and to myself because my father didn’t need any help pinpointing my brother’s shortcomings.
Add intriguing characters
My father was and is best described as an intense, idealist with a steel girder of a work ethic and a charm that wears thin under the gun of his laser focused attentions. And there I sat, at the nexus of my brother Ray’s crummy moods, ADHD or Asperger’s and my father’s galvanic need to fix him. I was the North Star right in the middle of the war between the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia except I was a rarely sited star in the constellation of our family even though I longed to be seen.
Here’s how it went with us. Never mind where we were, New Jersey, New York City or Northern Michigan my father would, with well-rehearsed words say,
“We’re going out to dinner. Tonight is a treat. The treat is, being together as a family, and giving your mother a break from creating a meal. This was his sizzle reel and tagging mom added the emotional component to the pitch. Because he was looking forward to the night out, and possibly had some kind of amnesia where my brother was concerned. Then his big finish, his hook was, “Everyone pick something affordable. “Ray,” he’d say. “No steak.”
My brother would say, “DAD. I get it.”
[10 Meaningful Practices for Every Writer]
Outside the restaurant, just before swinging the door wide and walking inside my Dad would stop us and say,
“Now remember everybody, this is for Mom. Let’s focus on why we are here.” My brother would slouch through the door and my dad would whisper into his teenage ear, “Spaghetti “and then it was dead man walking all the way to our seats.
At the table, with the waitress looming, my father would raise his eyebrows as if to say, Ok, people, this is not a drill.
One by one, we would order; Veal for my mother, lasagna for me, my dad a pork chop or the fish, and without batting an eye my brother would say, “Steak please.”
The rest of the night would become one long unbroken monologue delivered by my father on gratefulness, frugality, and the value of the dollar. I had my own ritual. I’d give my mom a panicked look and we’d scuttle to the restroom where I’d stand in the bathroom stall, head over the toilet, gagging. I was a sensitive kid and between the car ride (motion sickness) and the constant anxiety of being surrounded by the anticipation of battle, barfing seemed like sweet relief. It was my mother that suffered the most though, her only night out in months was to be spent rubbing her anxious daughter’s back or listening to a filibuster at table-twelve.
Add an antagonist
The thing about my father is this, he believed that if his lecturing didn’t have the desired effect it was because the listener didn’t or couldn’t fully comprehend his logic, his high level thinking, and the best course of action was, logically, more lecturing.
Ray and I had bedrooms on the same floor, across the hall from each other and night after night my father would sit on Ray’s bed and layout the error of my brother’s approach to life and fill in with his own recipe for success.
Night after night, I’d listen to the low rumble of only my father’s voice across the hall, so grateful that I wasn’t on the receiving end of his fervent reasoning, on theone hand and on the other hand wishing for a vowel or two thrown in my direction. Once, tired of being the good, forgotten girl, I said to my Dad,
“Could we talk a little?”
He said, “Sure, what do you want to talk about?
I hesitated and said, “I don’t know. Maybe something nice. Butterflies?”
[The 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes (& How to Fix Them)]
Without hesitation, because my father rarely hesitated said, “I don’t know very much about butterflies.” And off he went secure in the knowledge that the kid who wanted to talk about butterflies wasn’t doing drugs.
Ray’s poor judgment, miserable friends and defiance carried him through all of his years in high school, creating a groove in our familial interactions like the ruts of the Oregon Trail. Fixing Ray was our homesteading and nothing would divert us from this path.
Then, after years of trouble; slashed tires, stolen tests, drunken night time pass-outs, and fairly obvious drug use, the months before graduation Ray seemed to settle down.
Make People Wonder
In an unrelated action and totally out of character, my father purchased a used 1970 Ford Mustang. He wasn’t the type to buy toys and suddenly there were a lot of new vocabulary words in the house. Mint condition, Blue Book, resale opportunity, investment. I was wholly uninterested except when I heard my brother reason with my dad just after pulling the new car into the driveway.
“Just let me take it out for a quick drive. Just for a few miles. Trust me.”
I don’t know what possessed my father to hand over the keys that day, but I like to think it was hope. More likely though it could have been the irrational belief that if you knock your head against a wall enough times that wall eventually turns into a door. Frankly, it’s more likely that my father had the unshakeable belief in his own salesmenship rather than any mystical feeling of hope.
The how or the why didn’t really matter in the end. In the end, that rarely matters.
Later that night, I was in the basement practicing my flute, my mother darted into my room saying,
“Ray’s been in an accident, we’re going to the hospital.” And she and my father disappeared. I waited and upon their return I got the details of the accident along with a few more vocabulary words: Survival rate, coma, manslaughter, jail time.
That day, with keys in hand my brother picked up two friends and sped off down the two lane country road that runs parallel to Lake Superior in a town, called Silver City. Another friend was in the car in front of him and my brother accelerated. They were most likely racing. When the car ahead, slammed on his breaks, with no functioning tail lights, my brother, a 17 year-old inexperienced driver in a car he’d never driven before, swerved left then right, and drove headlong into the slag-filled ditch and slammed into a tree, inches before hitting Lake Superior. The boy in the passenger seat flew through the windshield and the boy in the back, Jamie Lockart, flew between the bucket seats and rammed his head into the dashboard.
When my brother came home from the hospital with bruises on his head and chest and a deep gash in his leg, nobody looked happy, relieved or grateful. Over the next weeks dark circles formed under my brother’s eyes, his skin yellowed and he lost weight. Night after night my father sat in his room trying to impress upon him the severity of the events, what was likely to happen if the boy in the coma didn’t wake up or worse, died.
Graduation day came and there was no joy in Muddville. If before the accident we were seen as outsiders now that feeling had been amplified and we were thought of those people who brought this plight to their community.
At the ceremony I remember the stares. I remember my brother looked like a sweaty, boiled egg in his shiny red graduation gown. I remember the lack of applause when he walked across the stage. But I don’t remember me in this scene. I was never present during my brother’s drama. I lived in my head and only in my head: angry, silent, mortified.
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Add Surprise & Irony
To make matters intolerable, the plan for the graduation night was to go out to dinner. There was only one restaurant in town, The Konteka, where I worked bussing tables. We all assumed we would go there but, when my father turned left instead of right and headed out onto the highway I heard my brother shout,
“Where are we going?”
I don’t remember how my father figured out that my brother had plans to go to graduation parties after the ceremonies. My mom and dad had made an a priori decision. We were driving an hour and a half to Houghton, MI to eat dinner at a restaurant called The Summer Place and stay the night. The entire ride, my brother looked like a cat in a cage that was filling up with water.
Keep Narrative Voice Compelling.
I had to hand it to my parents, this felt heroic. Looking back, I believe my parents thought Ray might kill himself if left to his own or his friends devices and my dad finally stopped talking and did something.
It was a checkmate and the most miserable dinner I’d ever spent a night hovering over a toilet through.
As if to mock us, the silent, sulking family, the restaurant played the sound track to Andy Williams’s A Summer Place-there’s A Summer Place where it can rain or storm and I’m safe and warm over and over and over again.
The boy in the coma woke up and before the end of the year walked and miraculously talked. There may have been a civil suit, maybe not, I don’t remember. My brother’s bruises healed and he went on to wreck more cars, notably the one that was supposed to be mine. An old red VW beetle that once my brother rolled, the tires folded under it as if it were a real bug playing dead.
Ray went to college and we really didn’t interact for years except on break or Christmas. I dreaded these times. No one could make me angrier than my brother. He knew calling me goody-goody, and Miss-Free-Ticket-to-Life was a kind of mocking taunt. He was wicked, he knew the truth,
“You maybe be awesome but the old man doesn’t give a shit about awesome.”
[How To Write Novels When You’re A Parent]
After a while I stopped coming home. One time, just last year in-fact, at a family reunion, I told my brother to go f*** himself after the first fifteen minutes in a visit together.
Until this past summer. My parents had their 60th wedding anniversary. My mother has advanced Alzheimer’s and only remembers my father who is her full time caregiver. My father has chased away something like 20 nurses with his continued lectures on doing things his way.
At the anniversary dinner I noticed my brother Ray seemed an entirely different person, relaxed, happy, even chatty. I went defensive as usual but saw that something had lifted, he wasn’t the Open Crab face Sandwich I was used to. Curious, I impulsively volunteered to drive him to the airport.
All the way to the airport I drove, teeth clenched waiting.
Just before getting out of the car he said,
“Hey, Uh, I just want to say something to you. I want you to know that I was always so jealous of you that I just couldn’t be nice to you. I want you to know that’s over now. I’m over it. I can’t believe it took me 45 years to get over myself. I want you to know you’re amazing and I love you.”
Change the emotion
And there, at the Delta Airlines drop off, I saw our relationship unroll like a scroll to be read. My brother wanted less of my father’s focus and I wanted more. This brick wall of envy that had lived between us fell and ironically it took me 45 years and ten minutes longer than my clueless, irritating, brother to figure it out.
Hooking a reader is all about keeping them interested by using craft to paint a compelling picture. If you consider the ten items that help build tension and move the story forward, writers can weave a tale that keeps readers up at night and that is the magic in the best of relationships.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.
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