The art of the hook is a vital component in the realm of essay writing. But what is a hook?
A hook is typically the first one or two sentences of an essay or article that is designed to grab the reader’s attention. Much like a fish gets literally hooked by bait, the hook of an essay should captivate your audience and make them want to read more.
But knowing how to write a hook for an essay is a tough skill to acquire. For one, the vast amount of content out there—tweets, blogs, articles, emails, and more—make it challenging to compete for readers’ attention.
Moreover, people get distracted easily, and if you don’t hook them quickly, you might lose them.
Knowing how to write a good hook is an essential part of effective essay writing. By exploring the most common types of essay hooks, you can learn how to best engage audiences from the very beginning and develop a hook that’s right for your paper.
5 common types of essay hooks
1 Statistic hook
The statistic hook gives your audience a true and hard fact to latch onto from the get-go. Gaining your reader’s trust through expertise early on will help reinforce the points you make in the rest of your argument. Plus, a striking statistic can make your audience instantly interested in the topic at hand, motivating them to keep reading and learn more.
For example, if you’re writing a research essay about the link between sleep and stress, you can begin with a powerful statistic from the American Psychological Association like this one:
“According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 43 percent of adults claim that stress has caused them to lie awake at night in the past month.”
2 Quotation hook
If you choose a memorable quotation that directly connects to what you’re writing about, the words will do the attention-grabbing work for you. Just make sure to attribute and explain the quotation after you include it so that the reader isn’t confused. And most importantly, the quotation you choose should add to the credibility and richness of your argument, rather than seeming like a random or one-off statement.
If you’re writing a literary essay about resiliency in Maya Angelou’s poetry, you might start off in this way:
“Maya Angelou once said, ‘Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances.’”
3 Anecdotal hook
Depending on the nature of your essay or article, anecdotal hooks can make for an intimate opening that tells your reader more about you. Though it’s not typical to write an essay in the first person, there are some times when you can make an exception, like in a narrative essay. This type of hook can be a little longer than others; just make sure that its length is relative to the rest of your essay.
If you’re writing about the differences between British and American baking, you might discuss an experience you had on a trip to London at the start of the essay:
“When I first arrived in London, I was ravenous. I headed to a cafe just outside of the hotel to test out some of the local flavors and ordered a pot of tea, a scone, and pudding. But when the pudding arrived, I was surprised not to find a sweet, chocolatey custard. Instead, this pudding was made from something I’d never encountered before: mutton fat.”
4 Question hook
Posing a question at the start of a piece will immediately capture the reader’s attention and leave them wanting more. Make sure the question is open-ended. You want to make sure you’re giving the reader something to explore further, rather than asking them a simple yes or no question. People are naturally inquisitive, so give them something good to chew on.
An essay about dog psychology might begin with a question similar to this:
“What is the difference between a well-adjusted dog and an anxious one? For starters, owners that encourage their dog’s excitement can make anxiety seem like a behavior that’s rewarded.”
5 Statement hook
Kicking off your essay with a solid declaration of your argument or position is another smart way to hook the reader. Even if they don’t agree fully with your statement, they will be intrigued to see how you support your assertion. Statement hooks often make the reader either want to argue against your view or follow along as you develop your claim.
When exploring the historical value of French cinema, you could start with a strong, declarative hook like this one:
“French cinema is the most influential genre of film in the last 100 years and has singlehandedly shaped modern cinema as we know it.”
A great hook will not only get your reader’s attention, but it will build toward your thesis and give your reader an idea of the essay they’re about to read. Any of these options, done well, can make your essay start strong and stand out.