How to Write a Good Hook for an Essay

Do you know what makes an essay different from Peter Pan? Your essay actually needs a hook! Every essay has to start somewhere, and a great hook can draw your reader in quickly and effectively. A powerful hook only takes a few words or a sentence, but it can take a full article to explain how to write a quick and effective hook for your next paper. In this article, we’re going to take a look at a few of the ways you can entice your readers to read your essay with a great hook that will draw them in, sink its claws into them, and not let them go.

So Where Should You Begin Your Essay?

If you are like most students, you will probably want to start your essay by announcing the topic and then delivering a thesis statement. While that is a functional introduction, it doesn’t produce a lot of interest. In fact, it’s more than a little boring. Of course, your professor has to read what you write anyway, he or she doesn’t have a choice whatsoever. At the same time, you have to understand that being bored of similar beginnings and boring content, your professor will feel very interested and even grateful, if you come up with something better. So, if you wanted to start your essay with the most boring sentence in the world: “my essay is about…”, please, don’t.

Instead, you need to start with something that will reel the audience in. There are a few tried and true ways to get your essay started. One of the most popular is the use of a quotation. It can be interesting to learn what other people have to say, and choosing a dramatic or compelling quotation can help to make your opening sentence interesting for the reader. However, the key is that the sentence has to be interesting. A boring quote is still going to be boring, even if it is relevant and important. Instead, you need to choose a quotation that will spark interest, compel the reader to want to learn more, or entertain the reader. Try to look for something that is either shocking or compelling, or which says something in a way that only the speaker could say that well. But be sure that whatever you choose is relevant to your topic.

Get Dramatic But Back It With Some Data

A second effective way to open an essay with a great hook is to use a dramatic statistic or shocking fact. Telling the reader something they don’t already know can make them interested to learn more. For example, when you provide an extreme or shocking statistic, you both make the reader want to know the story behind it and also demonstrate that you are a researcher with a deep knowledge of your subject. However, you should be sure that your fact is relevant to your essay and directly tied to your topic. It should not provoke a “so what?” question. It is not rare that students find some shock-content, and totally ignore that it doesn’t fit. The context matters. No matter how good your hook is, if you cannot proceed with it, it is useless.

Pay Attention to Your Reader — Ask Questions

A third effective way to hook the reader at the start of your essay is to ask a question. When you ask a question, the audience becomes interested because they mentally try to answer the question. This helps engage them in a mental conversation with you as the author. However, while asking a question can be effective, be sure you choose the right kind of question. For example, it is not generally helpful to ask a question that the audience can answer with a “no.” If you ask, “Are you interested in learning more about [insert topic here]?” the audience can answer “no” and choose not to read your paper. Instead, ask rhetorical questions that invite debate: “How many football players must die of traumatic brain injuries before the NFL makes changes to end these preventable tragedies?” The second question isn’t meant to be answered literally, but it sets the reader up to begin thinking about the topic and engaging with the material you will present in the essay.

Use Storytelling Right Away

Finally, another effective hook is the anecdote. Since most essays are lists of facts and arguments, an anecdote can help relieve some of the boredom of reading an essay by telling a colorful story that sets up your topic. The anecdote shouldn’t be too long, but it should tell a little story that relates directly to your topic. For example, if you are writing a paper about a government policy, telling a story about someone affected by it can help to set up the topic and humanize it at the same time. The perfect anecdote highlights a key facet of your essay, crystalizes a major point, or provides an entertaining window into the topic of discussion.

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