How To Write A Good Hook For An Essay

What was the last essay you’ve read? Can you remember how the beginning made you want to keep reading? 

Every unforgettable essay needs an effective hook at the beginning. Otherwise, readers will stop at the first few sentences and won’t bother to read the rest.

Catchy hooks give us a reason to keep reading. 

And once you know  how to write a good hook, you’re well on your way to earning a good living with your writing

Keep reading to learn what you need to know.

What Is a Hook in Writing?

Picture yourself skimming through radio stations listening for only a second or two before switching to the next station in line, straining your ears for something familiar and hoping to hear one of your favorite songs. 

And when you catch a tune you love, you stay put, smiling and savoring the music, for as long as it lasts. 

While this isn’t a perfect analogy, it does illustrate the power of hooks. When we hear (or read) something that strikes a familiar chord, that asks an important question, or that calls out to something in us, we stop looking for something else and we want more of what we’ve found. 

  • We want to know if it’ll answer that question.
  • Or we want to hear new information about something important to us. 
  • Or we want to hear the story teased at the beginning. We care about how it ends. 

This is what makes for a good hook. And you’ve only got the first few sentences to work with. 

Once you know how to create effective hooks for whatever you’re writing, all you need to do is get your content in front of the people most likely to care about it. 

The best hooks for writing essays come in seven different types, each of which can be broken down further. 

7 Different Types of Writing Hooks

The most compelling hooks for essays begin with one of the following elements:

An Interesting Question

Your reader, like you, is full of questions. If you know some of your reader’s questions, you can use that to get their attention and entice them to keep reading. 

After all, once you ask the question, the reader who sticks around will be hoping your essay contains an answer — or at least something that leads them in that direction.

Use a question that goes right to the heart of your essay’s position. Make it a question that will require your reader to stick around until the end to get the fullest, clearest answer. 

A Strong Statement or Declaration

Definitive statements get attention — especially when they’re controversial or they go against established wisdom. 

Think of something most people tend to accept without question, and try making a contrary statement. 

If you say it to a crowd of people, you’ll probably get some arch looks — maybe even some hecklers. But you’ll have their attention. The next step is to make the best use of it. 

An Interesting Fact or Statistic

If you know your audience is hungry for factual information on your essay’s subject matter, why not lead with an interesting fact or relevant statistic? 

Show how much you know about the subject. And give your reader information they can quickly and easily quote or pass on to others. 

If you do this, though, make sure your information comes from a credible source, and be sure to provide that source. Once you lose your reader’s trust as an “authority” on your essay’s subject, they’re unlikely to trust you on anything else.

A Metaphor or Simile

Leading with a metaphor about your subject can get your reader thinking about it in a different way. And with new perspectives come new insights and ideas. 

The metaphor identifies one thing with another non-equivalent thing. For example, if your harsh but creative roommate describes your latest culinary creation as “Pepto on a plate,” they’re not literally equating the two. 

A simile is like a metaphor, but it uses the word “like” or “as” to connect the two non-identical things. So, in this case, your roommate might say, “That looks like Pepto on a plate,” they would be using a simile to rudely warn you about your cooking.

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A Story / Anecdote 

Starting with a captivating anecdote is a classic way to get your reader’s attention and start thinking of how it applies to your essay’s subject. Everyone loves a good story — as long as it doesn’t take too long to tell it.

Keep the story brief, including only as much information as you need to get your reader’s attention and keep them interested in what happens. Then you can tie the story to your essay’s subject matter (if the connection isn’t already apparent).

Keep the story brief, including only as much information as you need to get your reader’s attention and keep them interested in what happens. Then you can tie the story to your essay’s subject matter (if the connection isn’t already apparent).

This can be a personal story or someone else’s. Make it memorable and make it count.

A Vivid Description

A description that creates a clear image of a scene can draw your reader in, as long as the scene depicted is relevant to the subject. 

This approach works best in narrative essays, but it can also work in other types, as long as it contributes to your essay’s overall point. Don’t use it for comic relief or to pull a bait and switch on your reader. 

If your essay is on the importance of a well-equipped home office, for example, you might lead with a description of one you’ve seen (or imagined). 

A Quotation 

Lead with a memorable quote if it segues neatly to your subject matter. Use it if the quote and your essay compliment each other. The quote should feel as if it belongs there, and your essay should feel like an organic but delightfully unexpected outgrowth. 

If you can’t find just the right quote to begin your essay, either create a fitting quote of your own, or lead with something else.

15 Writing Hook Examples

What makes a good hook for an essay?

And what are some examples that can help you understand how to make a hook that will make your readers want to keep reading? 

Here are 15 to get you started:

  1. Quote a crazy but true fact — If the fact is relevant to your essay and startling enough to surprise your reader and make them curious, they’re more likely to keep reading. 
  2. Quote a famous person — If the quote is relevant to your essay, and the source is considered wise or knowledgeable, your reader will feel more confident of your essay’s credibility. 
  3. Ask a question, give an answer — If you ask a relevant question, your reader will feel curious about the answer and will want to know more about it. 
  4. Make a bold statement — If you succeed in either piquing your reader’s curiosity or getting them angry, they’re more likely to keep reading to get some clarity on your statement.
  5. Offer a shocking statistic — A surprising statistic will make your reader want to know more, especially if it challenges a long-held belief.
  6. Tell a story — Share an anecdote that relates to your essay and resonates with your reader, and they’ll feel invested in what happens and curious about the point you’re trying to make.
  7. Set the scene (description) — If you can get your reader to visualize the scene you’re describing (which should be relevant to your essay), they’ll feel more invested in what comes after it. 
  8. Challenge a common misconception — If you present information that challenges a common misconception, your ideal reader will have an “I knew it!” moment and will feel compelled to read the rest.
  9. Create an image with a simile or metaphor — If your chosen metaphor or simile paints an evocative or surprising picture for your reader, they’ll feel either curious or amused enough to want to read more. 
  10. Pose a rhetorical question — Starting with a relevant question your reader already knows the answer to makes them more likely to answer the question and read on to satisfy their curiosity.
  11. Pose a contradiction — Starting with a contradictory sentence makes your reader do a double-take and gets them curious enough to read more in order to get clarity, as long as they care about the subject.
  12. Tell a joke — By getting your reader to laugh, you’re drawing them in with a powerful and healing emotion, which makes them more likely to consider your position with a sympathetic attitude. 
  13. Define something — By starting with a definition (a kind of fact), you communicate your respect for clarity, while getting your reader curious about your intent.
  14. Pose a dilemma  — By presenting two options that aren’t anyone’s ideal, you’re essentially asking a “would you rather” question, which, if relevant, will usually get your readers invested enough to answer the question and curious enough to keep reading. 
  15. Offer meaningful advice — As long as it’s relevant to your essay, a carefully worded bit of advice can get your reader curious about your reasoning behind it. 

Did you find the perfect hook for your next essay?

The hook is essentially the “first one or two sentences of an essay that serve(s) as both an introduction to the reader and an attention grabber.”

What you’re trying to do with your hook is to get your reader to feel something:

  • Anger
  • Shock
  • Curiosity
  • Amusement
  • Sympathy

You want your reader to feel as though they have to find out what’s next, either to feed the emotion or to quell it. 

Think of what you want your reader to feel. Then choose the type of hook most likely to elicit that emotion. And from there, you can brainstorm a list of possible openings to get your reader’s attention. 

You can also research popular essays and see how they hook their readers at the beginning. Which ones work the best on you?

Use what you learn to create a hook your readers can’t resist. 

Catchy hooks are one of the reasons that keep us reading. And once you know how to write a good hook, you’re on your way to improving your income with writing.

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