A hook is the first couple of sentences of your article or essay. Its purpose is to grab your reader’s attention and make them want to read what comes next. The first couple of sentences is what will help your readers decide whether they want to continue reading your essay or not. Therefore, learning how to write an attention-grabbing intro is vital. So here are five kinds of hooks to use and also included are three hooks to avoid.
Below are different ways to approach the hook:
1. Inverted pyramid
First way is to use the Inverted Pyramid. An inverted pyramid is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom which means you’ll start out with a broad, abstract statement that narrows down to your main point.
2. Fact or statistic
A second kind of hook is the Fact or Statistic. In this kind of hook, you start with a startling fact or relevant statistic. Here’s a statistic and transition you might use for the same thesis. Quote: “People lie in 1 out of every conversation lasting more than 10 minutes, according to Allison Komet writing for Psychology Today magazine, etc., etc. A little bit of research can quickly turn up a usable statistic, but remember to cite your source as I did here and try to choose a source that you think your reader will consider reliable.
3. Anecdote or personal experience
Then there’s the Anecdote or Personal Experience. An anecdote is a short story designed to illustrate some point you’re trying to make. Add a transition for an easy flow into the article.
4. Rhetorical question
A personal experience hook is usually interesting. An example would be: “When I was eight years old, my mother asked me if I had broken her coffee pot and hidden it in the garage. I did it; I was guilty, but I denied it no matter what she said or how many times she asked. I didn’t realize until I was much older how obvious my guilt was and that every time I repeated my lie, I was only breaking her trust in me into more pieces than I had broken that coffee pot.”
5. Bold pronouncement
Next is the Rhetorical question. This is when you ask a question to which you don’t actually expect an answer, like “Have you ever told a lie? Did you eventually get caught?” This kind of hook is easy, but as a result, it’s often overused and is unlikely to impress your reader, so I advise caution. Still, it can be effective if used with a little bit of imagination or originality.
Lastly is the Bold Pronouncement. For example, “If you say you’ve never told a lie, then you’re lying.” Or if in academic essays where you are never to use personal pronouns like “you,” you may put it this way: “Everyone lies, including the person who wrote this sentence as well as the person who is now reading it.” And as always, follow your hook with a transition and thesis.
Now here are three hooks to avoid. There’s nothing essentially wrong with the first two, but they’re boring and so overused that you should avoid them like a kid with the stomach flu!
- Dictionary Quote
The first is the dictionary quote. I’ve seen way too many hooks which goes thus: Quote: “Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘truth’ as ‘the state of being factual; the body of real things, events, and facts.”
- Rhetorical Question
Like the rhetorical question, this could be used imaginatively, but the dictionary-definition hooks that I’ve seen are almost always lazy and unoriginal. Do not use these.
- Google Quote
In the same vein, the Googled quote is usually copied and pasted without any real thought. “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember anything.” Mark Twain said that. I agree that’s a great quote. But people rarely take the necessary second step of commenting on the quote with any sort of originality. And besides, like the dictionary quote, it’s nearly always a bad idea to begin or end your essay with someone’s words other than your own.
Possibly the worst hook of all is the “I was thinking about what to write and came up with this.” Anyone beginning with this should be struck on the head repeatedly with his or her own computer.
But whatever you do, don’t skip the hook. Even these bad examples will get you a better opening than opening without any kind of intro. It is just like walking up to someone and saying, “Can I borrow your bike?” It’s too blunt and has no style. You need to preface it by giving your reader some idea of what’s coming: “Hey pal, I’m in a real bad situation, and I wonder if you wouldn’t mind helping me out.” That’s a hook.
If you know how to write an effective attention-getting intro, you’re more likely to get your reader on your side, ready to go along with your reasoning and hear what you have to say. And if that reader is your professor, you are more likely to get a grade with which you will be satisfied.
Once you are done with this step, you’re already off to a good start!