Not every academic paper needs a great hook. However, if you want your essay to be read carefully until the end, it’s better to write a catchy hook sentence that will engage the interest of your readers and make them connect with your text emotionally. Why?
First of all, if your essay is a high-stake one, say, admission essay or a competition for a scholarship, it’s absolutely necessary to make it stand out and be interesting to the person who will decide your fate. Second, even if all that is at stake is your grade, don’t you want to get a good one? Entertain your teacher – they need it. Getting through stacks upon stacks of papers to grade is not a picnic. Neither is writing an essay you aren’t excited about – we hear you!
However, if you are all set on coping yourself, let’s find out how to write a good hook sentence for an essay.
How to Write a Hook Sentence for an Essay
Coming up with a hook is not difficult. It doesn’t even require much creativity. All you have to do is to follow these simple rules.
It’s the last thing you do
When you write a hook for an essay, it’s better to have the bulk of your essay ready or at least outlined. Otherwise, it’s like trying to find a perfect door for a house that hasn’t been built yet.
It must be short
Keep your hook down to one sentence. The only exception is an anecdote, which is a story, so it might be told in several sentences. Still, don’t let it drag. Remember, it’s just a flashy thing to grab the reader’s attention, it must not steal the stage from the core message of your essay.
Remember the rhetorical situation
Every text has a writer, a reader, a purpose, a message, and a cultural context it exists in. Every part should be factored in when you create your text – even the smallest piece of it. The relationships between those parts can be complex.
For example, if you address your peers in an essay about reckless driving, a dark joke can make a great hook that hammers your point home, but it can come out as tone-deaf if someone from your school has recently suffered from a car accident. So, do keep in mind the current events as well.
Stay on topic
Your hook must make your reader interested in the topic. Don’t make empty promises. Sensational claims and sweeping statements might attract attention, but if they have nothing to do with the subject of your essay, your reader will feel tricked.
Types of hooks suitable for essays
Jokes make great hooks for casual blogs and live presentations. They don’t always work for academic papers. However, if they are very to the point and demonstrate a problem or a paradox you are about to explore in your essay, why not show your sense of humor and break the ice around a difficult topic. For example, “I’ll tell you a coronavirus joke now, but you’ll have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.”
Quotes have become so popular as hooks, they are now considered by many an unoriginal way to start your text. You might have even seen recommendations to keep away from quotes and be yourself. However, if the quote in question is very appropriate for your topic, why not? For example, this quote from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos makes a nice intro to an essay on science, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
This is an obvious choice for personal essays, but stories are much more versatile. They can humanize and make relatable even the most boring topic. Don’t be afraid to seem vulnerable and show your emotional investment in your subject. A personal anecdote makes your readers see the topic through your eyes – as something fascinating and important. Perfect qualities for a hook! It can be serious, touching, or light-hearted, depending on the effect you want it to have on the readers.
“As a child, I insisted upon putting all my toys to sleep before I went to bed myself – every night. I thought they were tired and deserved rest – just like me. Little did I know that I was practicing the ancestral mode of experience better known as ‘animism’.”
Why not tease some of the more exciting information from your essay straight away? Maybe surprising statistics will change the way your readers see the issue and urge them to read further. For example, “More than 90,000 websites get hacked every day”.
People are pragmatic creatures. They want every effort to have a payoff – however small. Tell them right from the start why they should read your essay and how it will benefit them. For example, “When you end up reading this essay, you will know enough about internet scams to never be duped again in your life”.
A rhetorical question is another often-used way to start your essay that instructors might warn you from using. Their issue with that is not so much that it’s somewhat overused – it’s classic and it works. Their issue is that most students don’t use it the right way, i.e. asking something unexpected, meaningful, and relevant to their essay’s topic. For example, “Who doesn’t like to be rich?” is a bad starter. It’s too general and the answer is too obvious. Your reader doesn’t feel this question is directed specifically at them. Whereas, “What would you never do even for 10 million?” fixes those issues.
If you care about your subject, don’t be afraid to show it. State your views on the issue upfront and proceed by developing your argument from there. For example, “It's time to stop treating women who make a choice to be unwed mothers as victims”.
When you think about how to write a hook for an essay, you usually look for something really short and expressive. However, painting a vivid picture that slowly draws your reader in is also a great way to capture their attention. If you are taking this road, remember the “show, don’t tell rule”. For example, “Lapping of lakes, waves crashing on the shore, drip-dropping of rain, cascades foaming on the rivers, whooshing of a tap opened at full blast, splashing, splattering, bubbling, and gurgling – imagine never hearing the sounds of water in your entire life”.
When Writing a Hook for an Essay is Not Your Biggest Concern
If you need help writing a hook for an essay, you can always count on us to come up with just the phrase to fit the scope, tone, and the message of your essay perfectly! Also, don’t forget that we are there for all your paper writing needs, be it a good hook, editing, formatting, or creating an essay from scratch.