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A Hook for an Essay

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English

Good writing starts with a good first sentence. The first sentence of an essay is an important one. It is an opportunity to grab the reader's attention and make them want to read more. This is called the hook. A good hook for an essay catches the reader's attention and gets them interested in your topic. Let's go over the different types of hooks and the helpful ways to write them.

What is a hook for an essay?

The hook is the first thing the reader sees in an essay. But what is it?

A Hook for an Essay, Catch the Reader's Attention With an Interesting Hook, StudySmarterCatch the Reader's Attention With an Interesting Hook, StudySmarter Originals

A hook is an attention-grabbing opening sentence of an essay. The hook catches the reader's attention with an interesting question, statement, or quote.

The hook catches the reader's attention by making them want to read more. There are many ways to "hook" the reader's attention. It all depends on your essay.

A good hook is important to get the reader interested in what you have to say!

What makes a good hook for an essay?

A good hook is attention-grabbing, relevant to the essay's topic, and appropriate for the writer's purpose. Let's take a close look at the different features of a good hook.

A good hook is attention-grabbing

Imagine you are scrolling through your email inbox. The "preview" feature shows the first sentence of each email. Why? Because the first sentence of the email is an important one! It shows you whether the email is worth reading. You use these "previews" to decide whether you want to open that email.

Think of the hook as that preview. The reader will use it to decide whether they want to read more.

A good hook is relevant to the essay's topic

Have you ever clicked on an article with an intriguing title only to learn that title was misleading? Misleading openers frustrate readers. Sure, it gets them interested. But it doesn't get them interested in the right thing.

A good hook gets the reader interested in the subject of YOUR essay. Therefore, the hook should be relevant to your topic.

A good hook is appropriate for your purpose

What type of hook you use depends on the purpose of your essay.

Purpose in an essay is the effect the writer intends to have on the reader.

A good hook puts the reader in the right mindset to receive your ideas. How do you want the reader to feel about your subject? What do you want them to care about?

5 types of hook for writing an essay (with examples)

The five types of hooks are quotes, questions, facts or statistics, strong statements, and stories or scenes. Consider your purpose for writing as you review the different types of hooks.

Quotes for a hook in an essay

Sometimes the perfect thing has already been said about your subject. This is when you will want to use a memorable quote as a hook for your essay.

A quote is a direct copy of someone else's words. As an essay hook, a quote is a memorable sentence or phrase that gets the reader interested in your subject.

When to use a quote for a hook

Use a quote for a hook in the following situations:

  • when your topic or argument makes you think of a quote
  • when someone else has already summed up your main idea perfectly
  • when an example from a text you are analyzing perfectly sums up your analysis

Quotes seem like an easy choice for a hook. After all, using a quote means you don't have to come up with a sentence! But quotes are not always the best choice for a hook. Make sure the quote is relevant to your topic. Also, make sure it gets the reader in the right mindset to understand your argument. If you can't find a quote that does this, choose another type of hook.

Examples of quotes for hooks

There are a few types of quotes you can use for a hook. Let's look at some examples of the different types of quotes in the table below:

Quote TypeDescriptionExample
Mindset QuoteSome quotes get the reader into the right mindset to understand your work. These types of quotes often speak to bigger truths the reader can identify with. Use mindset quotes to help the reader feel the way you want them to feel about the subject.
  • "The opposite of hate is not love; it's indifference" (Weisel).1 Indifference is what is hurting our children. We cannot sit by and watch their mental health deteriorate any longer.
Example QuoteYou can use a quote as an example of your main point. This example might come from a personal anecdote, a story you've read, popular culture, or a source you're using. Example quotes demonstrate the main idea of your essay.
  • Carrie Underwood once said, "My cell phone is my best friend. It's my lifeline to the outside world." 2 Cell phones have become an important part of our lives.
Source QuoteWhen your essay is focused on a text or set of texts, you might find they offer great quotes! A quote from a source helps set up your ideas about that source.
  • According to the American Civil Liberties Union, "The death penalty violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection." 3But does it? Not everyone thinks so.

Questions for a hook in an essay

Another way to get a reader's attention is to ask an interesting question. This could be a rhetorical question or a question you answer in the essay.

A rhetorical question is a question with no real answer. Rhetorical questions are used to get a reader thinking about a subject or experience.

Rhetorical questions help the reader personally connect to your topic.

  • What would a world without war be like?
  • Have you ever been told not to dress, speak, or behave a certain way to make others comfortable?
*Note how the first example asks the reader to imagine a scene. The second example asks the reader about their own experience. Both examples connect to the reader's perceptions and experiences.

You can also ask a question you will answer in the essay. This type of question interests the reader because they want to know the answer. They have to read the rest of your essay to get it!

  • Why can't we watch anything without commercials anymore?
  • Have you ever wondered what happens to recyclables once they're collected?
*Note how both examples make a promise: you will answer this question in the essay. Use questions like this to challenge the reader to find out the answer.

Facts or statistics for a hook in an essay

Did you know we create data every second of every day? By searching the web and using social media, we generate facts and statistics. Did that opener grab your attention? That's because it included a surprising fact.

A surprising fact or statistic can shock the reader into paying attention. It can also make them want to know more.

When writing a hook, you can use a fact or statistic that is:

  1. relevant to your topic
  2. shocking enough to get the reader's attention
  3. a good demonstration of how important your topic is
  • Each year, people waste about 1 billion metric tons of food across the world.
  • We might think of computers as a modern invention, but the first computer was invented in the 1940s.
  • Children are always learning, and ask over 300 questions a day on average.

Stories or scenes for a hook in an essay

What better way to catch someone's attention than with a good story? Stories are great for getting the reader to think about an experience. Stories can come from anywhere!

Some places you might find stories for hooks are:

  • Your personal experiences
  • Experiences of your friends and family members
  • Stories from books, tv, and film
  • Stories of famous people

Which type of story you choose depends on your essay. What story would help the reader care about your subject?

When my brother was 8 years old, he was diagnosed with Autism. After struggling with school and social situations for 25 years, I was also diagnosed with Autism. Why was I not tested in childhood like my brother? According to recent studies, it might be because I was a girl.

*Note how the personal story of the writer highlights the point of their essay: gender differences in Autism diagnoses. This story gets the reader interested in the subject.

Sometimes a whole story is too much for a hook. In this case, you may find it helpful to simply describe one scene from a story. A vivid description of a scene can be very powerful. When describing a scene, paint a picture of what the scene is like for the reader. Make them feel as if they are there.

I feel like I'm going to throw up. This is my third time taking the SAT exams. The words swim in front of my eyes, and everything I studied suddenly leaves my brain. I know I'm going to fail a third time.

*Imagine this example is the hook for an essay about issues with standardized testing in schools. This scene is described in a way that shows how test anxiety is one of the big issues with standardized testing. It reminds the reader of what it's like for some students.

Strong statements for a hook in an essay

Sometimes it's best to say what you mean upfront. A strong statement is a statement that takes a strong stance on an issue. Strong statements are particularly effective to argue a position or persuade.

The reader will either agree or disagree with your statement. That's okay! If the reader disagrees, they will at least be interested to see how you support your statement.

  • Online courses are the future of college.
  • Without teachers, our society would fall apart.
  • Social media has changed how we communicate with each other.
*Note how the above examples are simple, direct, and strongly worded. They catch the reader's attention. The reader might look at these and ask "oh really? how so?" They'll have to read more to learn the answer!

Would the first example be as interesting if it said "Online courses are a promising avenue of teaching at the college level that we should explore in the future"? No! When writing a strong statement, use strong words. Keep it strong. Keep it direct. Keep it simple.

Ways to write a hook for an essay

To write a hook for an essay, consider your purpose, look for what's out there, and try different things. When writing a hook, there are a lot of options. Don't get overwhelmed! Take the following approaches:

Consider the purpose of your essay

What effect do you want to have on the reader? What do you want the reader to think or feel about your subject? Choose a hook that will give you that effect.

For example, if you want the reader to understand what an experience is like, tell a story. If you want the reader to feel the urgency of an issue, start with a surprising fact or statistic that demonstrates how important the topic is.

Look for what's out there

Sometimes the perfect quote or story instantly comes to mind. Sometimes it does not. Don't be afraid to look! Use the internet, books, and friends to find ideas for hooks.

For example, let's say you are writing an essay arguing that teachers need better pay. You could look for stories of teachers who pay for their own supplies. Or if you are explaining the effects of hallucinogens, look for quotes from people who have experienced them.

Try different things

Can't decide what to do? Try out different types of hooks! See what works best. Remember, the best writing comes from trial and error.

You are writing an essay about the impacts of oil drilling on marine life. You look for a quote from a marine biologist. But all the quotes you find are inspirational! You wanted the reader to be outraged, not inspired. So, you tell a story to bring up those emotions. But your story is too long, and it doesn't really fit. Finally, you find a surprising fact about the death rates of whales that fits just right. Perfect!

Essay Hook - Key takeaways

  • A hook is an attention-grabbing opening sentence of an essay. The hook catches the reader's attention with an interesting question, statement, or quote.
  • A good hook is attention-grabbing, relevant to the essay's topic, and appropriate for the writer's purpose.
  • The five types of hooks are quotes, questions, facts or statistics, strong statements, and stories or scenes.
  • To write a hook for an essay, consider your purpose, look for what's out there, and try different things.

1. Elie Weisel, “One Must Not Forget,” US News & World Report, 1986.

2. Carrie Underwood, "Carrie Underwood: What I've Learned," Esquire, 2009.

6. American Civil Liberties Union, "The Case Against the Death Penalty," 2012.

A Hook for an Essay

To write a hook for an essay: consider your purpose; look for quotes, stories, or facts about your topic; and try different things to start the essay in an interesting way. 

A good hook for an essay might be a quote, question, fact or statistic, strong statement, or story that relates to the topic.

To write a hook for an argumentative essay, start off with a strong statement about your topic. The reader will be interested to see how you support your topic. Or you could start with a surprising fact or statistic, relevant quote, or story to get the reader interested in learning more.

To start a hook for an essay, consider the effect you want to have on the reader and select a type of hook that will have that effect.

To come up with a hook for an essay, consider your purpose, look for what's out there, and try different types of hooks to see what works best.

Final A Hook for an Essay Quiz

Question

What is a hook for an essay?

Show answer

Answer

A hook is an attention-grabbing opening sentence of an essay. The hook catches the reader's attention with an interesting question, statement, or quote.

Show question

Question

What are the features of a good hook?

Show answer

Answer

attention-grabbing

Show question

Question

What is purpose in an essay?

Show answer

Answer

Purpose in an essay is the effect the writer intends to have on the reader.

Show question

Question

True or false: 

A quote for a hook has to come from someone famous.

Show answer

Answer

False. A good quote can come from anywhere.

Show question

Question

What is a quote?

Show answer

Answer

 A quote is a direct copy of someone else's words. As an essay hook, a quote is a memorable sentence or phrase that gets the reader interested in your subject.

Show question

Question

When should one use a quote for a hook?

Show answer

Answer

When the topic or argument makes them think of a quote

Show question

Question

What are the different types of quotes one can use for a hook?

Show answer

Answer

mindset quote

Show question

Question

What is a rhetorical question?

Show answer

Answer

A rhetorical question is a question with no real answer. Rhetorical questions are used to get a reader thinking about a subject or experience. 

Show question

Question

A writer wants to get the reader thinking about their argument. What type of question can they use to encourage the reader to want to learn the answer?

Show answer

Answer

a question answered in  the essay

Show question

Question

When writing a fact or statistic for a hook, it should be:

Show answer

Answer

relevant to the topic

Show question

Question

Where are some places one can look for stories to use as a hook?

Show answer

Answer

personal experiences

Show question

Question

If a story is too much for a hook, what else can a writer do to get the reader interested in an experience?

Show answer

Answer

describe one scene from a story

Show question

Question

Which type of hook is particularly effective for arguing a position or persuading?

Show answer

Answer

a strong statement

Show question

Question

True or false:

It's okay if the reader doesn't agree with a strong statement used for a hook.

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Answer

True! Even if the reader doesn't agree with the statement, they will be interested in seeing how the writer supports that statement. 

Show question

Question

What are some ways to write a hook when you're stuck? 

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Answer

consider the purpose of the essay

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