If someone is searching for a book or article to read, he or she will decide from the very beginning whether this work is worth attention. Ironically, the book can be an awesome piece of writing. If the opening lines are dull, a reader will unlikely keep reading the rest.
A hook in the essay is a catchy sentence or paragraph in the introduction which serves as an attention-grabbing element.
The effectiveness of the hook is defined by its ability to motivate people to read the entire text. A hook sentence is the most recommended way to start an academic paper of any type as it gives a hint of what the topic is and what kind of questions will be observed. It keeps the reading audience intrigued to the end.
An excellent hook sentence is engaging and interesting; it is a perfect method to start an argumentative or persuasive paper. The problem is that once students start, they forget to keep the rest of the paper interesting. It's important to define the target audience, thesis, and supporting arguments not to fall off the point. However, this article is focused on writing a hook; it is time to find out the ways a writer can pick the most appropriate attention grabber. View these great tips on writing a school/college essay to get more information.
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How to Write a Hook sentence?
Before we begin to talk about types of perfect essay hook, we want to mention several steps students should take to decide on which hook to choose.
How to write a good hook?
- You must have a clear vision of what kind of a literary work you are working on.
Definition, descriptive, and narrative essays differ from argumentative and critical essays a lot because they require different writing strategies. In the initial group of essays, you need to describe certain events or concepts, whether the second group requires you to use persuasive techniques to support your argument.
It allows writers to see how the work is structured better and which points to highlight.
- Understand who you are writing for.
Each cohort, each generation has its own language, and your primary task is to choose a particular way in which your work will develop. When you write for children, write for children. If you write for language professionals, take their specific language into account - it is an effective way to get an action plan and follow it.
- Realize why you are writing this essay.
If it is a paper on a complicated topic for a popular magazine, you can go funny and humorous, and your readers will love this approach. Yet, if you write a conference paper, be more formal. Good hooks must fit in your writing frame, your tone and style.
The answer to the question is 'no.' You can't use more than 1-2 hook sentences in your paper because you risk having high plagiarism level and making your reader lost. Try to choose only one powerful hook as the opening sentence of paper's introduction. You can also add a hook at the beginning of conclusion (learn how to write conclusion).
Let's Look at Some Catchy Hooks for Essays
START WITH AN INTERESTING FACT
"Archaeologists believe, based on marks they've seen on mummies, that human beings had tattoos between 4000 and 2000 B.C. in Egypt."(David Shields, 36 Tattoos)
Do you want to make the audience read your full text? Amaze them with the great introduction! Get them hooked with the help of a fact they have never heard and keep them interested throughout the entire work. Such hook sentences do not necessarily need specific figures. Check out this article: don't you want to learn more about where tattoos have come from and what they mean?
STATE A THESIS
"Few aspects of the American mythos form such a complex set of relationships with the African American experience as the idea of the frontier."(Pamela Swanigan, Much the Same on the Other Side: The Boondocks and the Symbolic Frontier)
If you have a great idea and you want to be straightforward and introduce it immediately because it is unique, do what you want. Why is this particular sentence so hooking? It intrigues the readers because using such a structure the author 'promises' she will tell us about something special. We are interested in the concept of frontier now.
Unlike other types of hook sentences, a thesis is something a writer is obligated to develop in every new paper - view the general structure here. That is why it is better to start with another hook to have two attention grabbers in the introduction.
PLACE YOUR FAVORITE LITERARY QUOTE
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."(J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)
It would be a good hook in an essay of several types: a writer can choose to focus on the value of time, review "The Fellowship of the Ring" storyline, or describe the character of Gandalf. A great hook is the one which has many different applications in one text.
QUOTE FAMOUS PEOPLE YOU BELIEVE ARE WISE
"Any achievement in business is never accomplished by a single person; a team of skilled members from diversified fields is always needed." (Steve Jobs)
The wisdom of this man has no doubts. People tend to believe every single word Steve Jobs says as he has achieved amazing results, wealthy being, and a new age of technology. Such people are worth listening. It is a good idea to start a paper on business, management, leadership, marketing, or even IT from these words.
PURCHASE CHEAP ESSAYS OF ANY TYPE
USE A GREAT STORY AS AN OPENING
"In late 1979, a twenty-four-year-old entrepreneur paid a visit to a research center in Silicon Valley called Xerox PARC. He was the co-founder of a small computer startup down the road, in Cupertino. His name was Steve Jobs."(Malcolm Gladwell, Creation Myth)
Do you need anything else to get hooked? It is a brilliant essay starter. Stories are always effective, but stories about famous people are on top. Do the research, read great people's biographies and find correlations with the theme of your writing. Give readers a nice story, and they will enjoy it.
SETA SCENE ANOTHER TIME
"The dark blue glitter was penetrating, leaving no space for creativity. In just one stare, Mary's eyes defined a lot about her true passion, her devotion and her commitment to her cause. Most of the employees that day left the corporation once launched by Mike Myers without saying a word, but feeling completely different people." (Unknown writer)
This category of good hooks is almost the same as the previously discussed attention-grabber. The goal of the writer is to describe a certain scene taken from the fiction story or real life. No matter what the topic is, it is the effective method used to make the readers not only think but feel the emotions of heroes.
ANECDOTE/JOKE TO MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH
"A Chukcha comes into a shop and asks: "Do you have color TVs?" "Yes, we do." "Give me a green one." (Unknown author)
Every day we learn different jokes from our colleagues, family, or friends. If you want to share these funny stories with your teacher or classmates, the best way is to use anecdotes as the relaxing hook sentences. They make people both laugh and feel less stressed. Humor is one of the keys to success in our life, and a good anecdote is not an exception. In our case, the anecdote may start a serious topic like the problems people with colorblindness experience. The anecdote can serve as an introduction to the research on stereotypes about Chukcha, especially their intellect. The same anecdote may open an essay on different types of humor.
STRIKE WITH NUMBERS AND STATISTICS
"According to 2008 figures from the Pew Research Center, 97% of today's K-12 students spend many hours each week playing video games."(Keith Devlin, Learning Math with a Video Game)
Every time you want to draw the audience's attention, start the intro paragraph with large numbers and interesting statistics. Demonstrate that you did extensive research and created a good basis for your discussion.
SURPRISE READERS BY REVEALING A COMMON MISCONCEPTION
"We all know that a tongue has several sections which are exclusively responsible for a particular taste: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The idea was disproven by other studies and research."
What can be more intriguing than finding out that an idea you have had in mind for years is wrong? This is a perfect trigger, and it will get your audience hooked in a second.
INVOLVE A CONTRADICTION
"Mrs. Lynch's freaky dress made me feel excited and disgusted at the same time; it was not the best choice."
Good hooks may include contradictions. The example shows a contradictive sentence combines opposite ideas/situations.
CREATE AN IMAGE, SIMILE, OR METAPHOR
"To make an omelet you need not only those broken eggs but someone 'oppressed' to beat them..." (Joan Didion, The Women's Movement)
Obviously, this isn't a recipe or a story about eggs. The writer starts with a very simple, everyday image, and then adds a drop of unpredictability - 'oppressed' ones to break the eggs. We call such sentence a fantastic starter and a great hook.
POSE A RHETORICAL QUESTION
"We all need food and water to live, don't we?" "People today know that the Earth is round, don't they?" "Children always find something new interesting, don't they?" "How much would you pay to save the life of your beloved ones?"
People think that all questions may have answers. There is a special type of questions known as rhetorical questions; they can be good hooks for essays on any topic. These questions have obvious answers. There is no need to explain why humans can't survive without food, how we learned that the planet is round, or why human life is priceless. It's just the way to let your reader think. It is an interesting way to start a paper on hate crime, life, existence, the universe, sense of life, moral or ethical values, etc.
ASK A QUESTION - GIVE AN ANSWER!
"Why do novelists write essays? Most publishers would rather have a novel."(Zadie Smith, The Rise of the Essay)
"What a nice question! We want to know the answer now, and we keep reading and reading and realize that we have finished the entire piece. Nothing is more hooking that a question that interests lots of people. Don't be afraid to use this trick if you want people to get sincerely interested in your academic writing.
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A good opening line hooks your attention by doing one of seven things brilliantly.
Its job is to make you read this second sentence, which has the singular task of propelling your eyes towards the third sentence. This one.
Go back and read the first line of this article again. It uses ‘Opening Line Strategy #3’…
Opening Line Strategy #3
This strategy deploys an element of ‘curiosity’ to encourage you to read further. Curiosity is a potent editorial weapon that can be used to great effect in headlines and sub-headings.
In an ideal world, this approach should leave you wanting to know more. Or it should create a question that can only be answered by reading on. Here, the question the first sentence should intrigue you with is: “what are the seven things that opening lines do brilliantly?”
Here’s another curious example from The Atlantic:
You may not believe me, but I have news about global warming: Good news, and better news.
And another from The Guardian newspaper:
About a month ago, to my embarrassment, I learned I’d been tying my shoelaces wrongly my whole life.
Both lines leave you asking questions. Good and better news about global warming, you say? Great! What is it? Am I tying my shoelaces incorrectly? Surely there’s only one way to tie shoelaces?
Opening Line Strategy #3 is also used to great effect to kick off John Scalzi’s sci-fi novel Old Man’s War, where he writes:
I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.
Curiosity is just one of seven different approaches that you can use to increase the eyeball-pulling power of your article’s first line. As for the others, let’s start at the beginning…
Opening Line Strategy #1
A first line can simply set up the line that follows it. Or the one after that. You can use it to create expectation or intrigue, which following lines can elaborate on or contrast.
Here’s an example from Wired.com:
In the hype tsunami prior to Facebook’s May IPO, I doubt anyone wrote these words: “Instead of social media, you should invest in macaroni and cheese.” As it turns out, that’s exactly what you should have done.
And take a look at this one from Slate.com:
The dinosaurs of our childhood aren’t around anymore. The sluggish, swamp-bound pea-brains that haunted museum halls and trundled through picture books have been eviscerated by agile, hot-blooded, and, often, feathery dinosaurs that more accurately reflect what Tyrannosaurus rex and kin were actually like.
Opening Line Strategy #2
Asking a question of your reader is another smart way to keep them squarely focused on your content. Like this example from one of our own posts:
Did you know that there are 7 writing mistakes that a spell checker won’t spot?
Opening Line Strategy #4
By posing a question in Opening Line Strategy #2, you’re setting up an expectation that the second sentence will start to answer it. Showing some empathy towards a common problem can also be a winning opener.
Here’s a good example of a question that does exactly that from writetodone.com:
Have you ever thought you could be a great writer… if only you had the time?
This one from Firepole Marketing also hopes to tap into reader discontent, suggesting that ‘hey, we’ve all been there…':
We’ve all struggled to increase traffic, and every wannabe guru has a bag of tricks they’re eager to sell you.
Opening Line Strategy #5
An effective way to hold a reader’s attention is to disrupt their expectations, surprise them or swerve away from what is generally considered to be the ‘norm’.
Take this first sentence from George Orwell’s classic novel 1984:
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
This opener from The Atlantic also promises to reveal information that you might not be aware of.
Behind every Google Map, there is a much more complex map that’s the key to your queries but hidden from your view.
Opening Line Strategy #6
If you’re struggling for an opening sentence or can’t think of how to start an article, try using a quote or an interesting statistic. Using information from an external source can often help you to catch the eye and hold a reader’s attention.
Check out this opening line from Fast Company:
Nearly 66% of companies on the Fortune 100 list in 1990 are not on the list some twenty-odd years later.
Opening Line Strategy #7
This last strategy is the simplest of the bunch. It requires little thought and just a little bit of bravery. Nevertheless, it can be a surprisingly effective tactic.
It is simply this: try deleting your first paragraph.
If you haven’t consciously optimized your opening line, there’s a good chance that deleting it (and your first paragraph) will make your article better. Why? Because intro paragraphs often ramble and often don’t get to the point quickly enough.
There are occasions when this approach is deliberate. The so-called ‘delayed intro’ is a tactic that you’ll often see in magazine or newspaper features. The writer either goes off on a loosely connected tangent before looping back to relevancy or uses the intro paragraph(s) to set the scene.
This works well in newspapers and magazines, where longer form writing is consumed in a linear way. But on the web, readers tend to skip and scan. If they’re not hooked by the content of your first paragraph, then they could abandon your content before they reach the end.
Deleting your first paragraph can be painful. But it’s often the most effective way to avoid unnecessary padding. Try it. This strategy won’t work for every article or blog post. But it might just give your content a little more ‘kerpow’ up-front.
A great first line doesn’t matter if…
There you have it. Seven ways to start an article with a killer opening line. If I’ve missed any, feel free to point them out in the comments section below.
As a general rule, your first line is the next most important bit of writing after your headline. Your second line is the next most important bit of writing after your first line. And so on. If you see any good lines, swipe them. Add them to a text file so you can use them as inspiration next time or as a sledgehammer to break through writer’s block.
Of course, there will hopefully come a time where none of these strategies will matter. When you’ve built up a loyal audience for your content, they will typically come back for WHAT you say, rather than HOW you say it.
But until then, try an Opening Line Strategy…
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Tagged as: article writing, how to start an article, marginal gains, opening lines, write faster