How To Write A Hook (Including real life examples)
All writing forms share the same basic goal:
Get the reader to read on.
In order to do that, you’ve got to lead with a strong hook - something that grabs the readers’ attention and pulls them deeper into your message.
A great hook does 2 things:
- Grabs the reader’s attention
- Compels the reader to carry on reading
“You are about to discover my secret to writing a really great hook for your essay. Grab a beverage, block out 5 minutes of time, and read the rest of this post….”
See that?? I grabbed your attention, then made you want to keep reading.
Let’s go into more details of each:
Use an Anecdote
Tell a relevant story that’ll connect with your readers.
Why it works: Relatable anecdotes grab people’s attention because they’ll wonder what’s next. “If this person went through X, how did they come out at Y?”.
If you’re currently struggling with a problem and you meet someone who’s been through the same thing - you’d want to know how they got past it, right?
“Just a few years ago, my health and my life were spiraling downwards out of my control. Doctors couldn’t explain it, I couldn’t explain it - until I found [SOLUTION]”
“I gained 30 lbs during my first year at the office. I was sitting at a computer for 12 hours a day, eating junk food…and I had no idea how to fix my lifestyle.”
Ask a Question
Ask about something your readers can relate to. Why it works: Questions make your content more engaging. If you get it right, you’ll get inside your readers’ heads by asking questions they already think about.
Plus, if you’re asking relevant questions, you’re implying that you have valuable answers. That’s a pretty attractive reason to stop and read.
Examples: “Does your business keep you up at night? Do you wake up worrying about bills that are piling up and unpredictable sales?” “Are you headed for a breakup?” “Have you ever thought of the perfect comeback - but it was too late? There’s a term for that….”
Use a Statistic
Use an impressive number that’s easy to understand.
Why it works: Numbers are eye-catching. They stand out visually, they can add definitive context, and they’re easy to remember. A great statistic can tell a story without needing in-depth explanation.
Examples: “+200%” “10X ROI” “$100,000 MRR”
Use a Pattern Break
Interrupt a distracted audience and demand their attention.
Why it works: The more distracted an audience is, the harder you’ll have to work to grab their attention. A pattern break is anything that’ll interrupt what they’re doing and almost force them to notice your message.
Examples: “Hey, you! Yeah, you…” “Don’t read this…” “STOP!”
Use a Quote
Grab attention with a relevant quote.
Why it works: Quotes are like icebreakers. Instead of trying to convince someone to listen to your message out of the blue, you can establish some common ground by referring to a familiar or relevant quote. Quotes can also be used to introduce specific ideas that’ll be found later in the content, like a sound bite from a podcast episode.
Examples: “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own” - Marcus Aurelius “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” - Confucius “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” - Rocky Balboa
Start in the middle of a conversation, or speak directly to the reader.
Why it works: Great stories (in any format) often start in the middle of a conversation. Whether it’s between two characters or with a narrator, dialogue is attention grabbing. If it’s done right, a viewer/reader will want to lean in and learn what’s next.
Examples: “I’m pretty much fucked.” - The Martian “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” - Goodfellas “We were somewhere around Barstow at the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Make a bold claim that’ll cause a reaction.
Why it works: Taking a strong stance on a sensitive issue will get attention. You may upset some people, but you’ll also immediately connect with the crowd on your side of the fence.
Examples: “Keto diets do more harm than good.” “Here’s why you’re going to fail…” “Maybe the anti-vaxxers have a point.”
Use Interactive Tools
Invite readers to actively engage with your content
Why it works: Interactive content like quizzes, generators, and calculators give your audience the chance to get personalized answers to their questions. It’s the difference between telling a reader about something versus handing them an instant answer.
Examples: “Get certified! Take the quiz at the end of these lessons and you’ll receive our official certification” “Fill in the boxes to see how much you’ll save over the next 10 years” “What type of dog should you get? Answer the next 20 questions and we’ll tell you which breed you should be looking for.”
REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES OF GREAT HOOKS:
YouTube Ad: This is an awesome ad on YouTube that uses a pattern break to interrupt your viewing and sell you soap.
A YouTube ad usually only has 5 seconds to hook a viewer. This ad does it in just 3 seconds, with this line:
“Listen up! The soap you shower with? It’s shit!”
I rarely watch more than 5 seconds of a YouTube ad and I’m not particularly picky about the soap I use. But this ad hooked me because I wasn’t expecting an attack on my personal hygiene.
Here’s a great Facebook ad that’s aimed at entrepreneurs scrolling through their news feeds. It blends an anecdote with some stats to introduce a relatable rags-to-riches story.
The hook is a familiar setup that most entrepreneurs can relate to - “I struggled at the beginning, I overcame the odds, now I’m successful”.
He also subtly adds important numbers to frame the story. “$400 million” and “#1 fastest growing” will stand out in any news feed.
Even though we know the beginning and end of his story, many entrepreneurs and agency owners will want to know how he managed to get from desperate early struggles to success.
Here’s an Instapage post promoting one of their statistic-heavy case studies. The hook is all about impressive numbers they achieved for a high-profile client.
Any marketer scrolling through a LinkedIn feed will probably take a second and at least consider clicking the link. A 68% conversion rate increase is impressive enough to probably trigger a lot of “I wonder how they did it” questions.
Interactive blog content:
Here’s a subject line generator from the Copywriting Course blog. It’s an interactive tool that hooks readers deeper into the article.
This generator doubles as a hook because it’s so immediate. There’s no long article to read, just a simple action with immediate payoff.
CHEATSHEET - THE 8 HOOKS:
HOOK HOW TO DO IT #1) Use an Anecdote Tell a relevant story that’ll connect with your readers. #2) Ask a Question Ask about something your readers can relate to. #3.) Use a Statistic Use an impressive number that’s easy to understand. #4.) Use a Pattern Break Interrupt a distracted audience and demand their attention. #5.) Use a Quote Grab attention with a relevant quote. #6.) Use Dialogue Start in the middle of a conversation, or speak directly to the reader. #7.) Use Controversy Make a bold claim that’ll cause a reaction. #8.) Use Interactive Tools Invite readers to actively engage with content via generators, calculators, and quizzes.
P.S. Want us to help write your hook? Join The Copywriting Course and get help from 3+ professional copywriters inside.