It is a truth universally acknowledged that to convince readers the book is interesting, you must have a catchy first sentence. But did you know that writing a hook sentence is a skill that any college student could benefit from?
True, you don’t have to fight for the attention of your teacher – they will have to read your essay anyway. However, it is your best interest to make this reading a pleasant experience for the person who will grade your work, and adding good essay hooks is one of the ways to achieve this. In this post, we will focus on choosing a hook in an essay, depending on its subgenre and topic.
What Is a Good Hook for an Essay
First of all, what is a hook in an essay? The simplest definition is that it’s the first sentence of your introduction aiming to grab the attention of your reader and pique their curiosity. Since we are talking of the academic paper, your creativity is somewhat limited. The hook should be relevant to your topic and adhere to academic style. Still, you can do some impressive things within those limits! Let’s look at the different types of hooks for essays.
Most Popular Types of Good Hooks for Essays
Hooks can be almost anything, especially when it comes to public speeches. Different gestures, actions, or even prolonged silence can be used to that end – as long as it grabs the audience’s attention. It’s a question of why, rather than how. Nevertheless, for essays, there are some of the more effective and widely used techniques. Here are some of them.
1. Surprising fact/statistics
The best way to start your informative essay or a college research paper is by giving your reader a piece of information, without further ado. The trick is to choose the right fact that is both relevant to your essay and interesting enough to stir the imagination of the reader. The rule of thumb is to go for a fact that surprised you when you were doing your research.
2. Strong statement
This type of hooks is good for argumentative and persuasive essays, where you have to take a stance and defend it. This statement does not necessarily coincide with your thesis statement, but it should be relevant to the topic and factual. Avoid sweeping generalizations with words like “always” or “never”, since they are easily refuted, sound sensational, and are manipulative – which is not a good thing, especially for an academic paper.
As overused as they are, quotes and proverbs still make catchy hooks for essays. Some instructors warn their students against using quotations at the very beginning of their essays, since it may look as if you were hiding behind someone else’s words and opinions. However, if you will find an interesting and relevant quote that is not too cliché – go for it!
Maybe you can make an interesting spin on some well-thumbed quote and incorporate it into your essay with a bit of humor, just like we did with the quote from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice at the beginning of this post.
These should be used wisely and sporadically – they are not suitable for all types of papers. However, a joke is a great way to establish an emotional connection with your audience and get them on your side. It can be an ice-breaker for an awkward topic or a great starter for a live presentation.
Anecdote makes a great hook and the more tightly it’s connected with your topic, the better. For a scientific topic, events that led to discovery often make an interesting hook. A personal anecdote is a great way to start a persuasive, narrative, or reflective essay because it helps to establish trust by showing your vulnerability (your stakes in the story) to your audience.
6. Vivid picture
Painting a vivid picture with words and making your readers partake in the experience is a good way to engage them. This technique is often used in combination with others, for example, you can tell a story from someone’s life from an unusual perspective (through the eyes of the historical figure or their family) or find a quote that describes something in detail.
7. Rhetorical question
Another veteran attention grabber is a good old rhetorical question. Again, sometimes instructors tell their students not to use questions as hooks, but that is partly because they have seen too many bland and insipid attempts. Rhetorical questions are the undying classic, but you must know how to ask them in style. They must be original, surprising, and thought-provoking.
8. Highlight benefit
This is a technique that is often used in ads or live presentations but is surprisingly rare in essays. However, promising your readers that they will learn something interesting or useful for them makes a perfect hook. It outright tells them why they should read the essay.
However, don’t forget to deliver on your promise. Even the greatest hook is just a little something to embellish your essay. The most important part is everything after the hook. That is why we recommend you finish your essay first and only then proceed to write the attention-grabber. Therefore, if you haven’t done it yet, we recommend you check out our guide on how to write an essay.
Essay Hook Examples: Can You Guess the Type?
Below you will find a list of sentences that are hook examples for essays. They also provide a little exercise for you to try and tell which type of hook each of those represents. If you need more hook ideas for essays, check out our database of good essay examples donated by amazing and talented students.
- “A child dies completely unnecessarily as a result of extreme poverty every three seconds.”
- “It's time we stopped treating soil like dirt.”
- “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” ― R.J. Palacio, Wonder
- “Imagine you wake up one morning, look out of the window and see a dinosaur in your back yard”
- “Recycling is broken, but we can fix it.”
- “I used to have problems with grammatical tenses. But not yet.”
- “One day, towards the end of 1811, Bernard Courtois was working in his lab in Paris to extract sodium and potassium compounds from seaweed ash and noticed a beautiful violet vapor giving off that condensed on copper vessels on his table, creating glistening dark crystals. That’s how iodine was accidentally discovered.”
- “If you were given enough money to satisfy your daily needs, would you still want to work and achieve?”
How to Make a Hook for an Essay
As we have already mentioned, you should not be starting a hook in an essay before you have at least an outline of your essay ready. Ideally, you should have an entire essay written, and only then, you put this cherry on top of the cake. That said, here is how to create a hook for an essay:
1. Understand the medium
The first sentence sets the tone for the entire essay, so you should be very careful not to miss the mark. Don’t worry about creating a great exciting hook for an essay that deals with a serious issue such as cancer treatment or poverty. Sometimes to be effective a hook must be just informative and accurate.
2. Remember your goals
Every word we utter has a purpose. This is even more true for the written text. Unfortunately, many students don’t see much purpose in their essays beyond getting the desired grade on their progress sheet and an instructor off their back. If that is true for you, no hook in the world will save your essay. You must care about the topic and be able to state your goals clearly. Think:
- Do you want your readers to understand the importance of the issues raised in your essay?
- Do you want them to be enthusiastic about it and seek more information after they’ve read it?
- Do you want to entertain or move them?
- Do you want to convince them?
- Do you want to bring a topic to light and start a discussion?
- Do you want to incite your readers to take action?
Your hook should be a means to achieve the main goal of your paper. If you want to convince your audience that science is fun, an interesting fact from the inventor’s life or an amusing anecdote would be appropriate. If you need to incite your readers to action, a sobering statistic or a bold statement would achieve this goal.
3. Know your audience
Last but not least is the intended audience of your essay. Again, if you are only writing for your instructor with the view of getting a good grade, a hook is less than irrelevant. Since it is an academic paper, your instructor is obviously included among your audience, but who else?
- Your fellow students?
- Older researchers?
- Politicians and decision-makers?
- Members of your local community?
Now You Know All About Writing a Hook for an Essay
As you can see, hook is a powerful tool to highlight the importance of your topic, engage your audience, and achieve the goals of your essay. Hopefully, you can also understand which technique is best for a particular type of essay and a range of topics. However, you might still need a bit of practice and advice before you will ace it. Look for examples of good hooks in our database of essays – and become a great essay writer free!
If you need help writing a hook for an essay (or an entire essay, for that matter), reach out to our amazing support team or fill out the contact form and we will match you with an experienced writer that is a pro in your topic.