And you have to find perfect hooks for an essay even when you don’t know what to write about.
When you are asked to write an essay, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get to express your own thoughts and creativity. An essay shouldn’t be boring or too formal. As a writer, your first priority is to make sure that you are keeping your audience in mind and writing for them and to them. That means grabbing and keeping their attention so that they want to read every word.
This is exactly why the essay hook exists and is such an important tool.
The use of hooks in writing goes far beyond just essays and college papers. Every writer, copywriter, screenwriter, and storyteller uses this device to draw in readers and keep them hooked. For example, world-famous ad executive, David Ogilvy, relied on a list of 29 “magic words” that he used in titles in order to hook a client’s attention.
College essay hooks can be difficult to generate, especially when you are still working on clarifying what your essay is going to say. So, the very first step in writing a strong essay hook is to do some planning.
This type of hook is appropriate when you are writing about a particular author, story, literary phenomenon, book, etc. Using a quote will make your essay sound fresh and establish your authority as an author.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” These words of Nick Carraway perfectly describe…”
“Not all those who wander are lost.” And yes, indeed, every person is so…”
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” Agree or not, but these words from The Alchemist determine…”
Including a quote from an authoritative and influential person can help support your argument and create an intriguing hook. The key is to make sure that you clearly show how the quote is relevant to your essay.
“John Wooden once said, ‘Never mistake activity for achievement.'”
“Learn to laugh” were the first words from my kindergarten teacher after Ralph Thorsen spilled paint on my daffodil picture.
Don’t be afraid to employ this type of hook. Remember, even if you start with a humorous anecdote, it doesn’t mean that your entire essay has to be funny. A bit of humor can help you grab readers’ attention and spark their interest in the topic.
“As my cousin and I pedaled our new bikes to the beach, 6 years old, suntanned and young, we met an old, shaggy-haired man weaving unsteadily on a battered old bike.”
“When I was a young boy, my father worked at a coal mine. For 27 years, he made it his occupation to scrape and claw and grunt his way into the bowels of the earth, searching for fuel. On April 19, 2004, the bowels of the earth clawed back.”
Keep in mind that most essay assignments will ask you to avoid using the first person. Be sure to check any requirements before using “I” in your writing.
Almost nothing can attract interest better than a well-constructed question. Readers will want to continue reading your essay in order to discover the answer. Be sure to avoid simple “Yes” or “No” questions and try to pose questions that ask reader to consider the other side or engage in some critical thinking.
“What would you do if you could play God for a day? That’s exactly what the leaders of the tiny island nation of Guam tried to answer.”
“Have you ever wondered, whether Anna Karenina still loved Alexei if she hadn’t decided to commit a suicide?”
People respond well to visual cues. Taking the time to set a detailed scene will help your reader have a clear picture in their minds and create an effective hook. You can describe an incident or detail the particular features of a person or a character to help the readers become immersed in your writing.
“The day of his birth began with Hurricane Charlie pounding at our door in Charleston, South Carolina.”
“Deciding to attend Hampton Roads Academy, a private school, was one of my most difficult decisions.”
These types of hooks start by surprising the reader with something that may not have known. Provide an interesting fact about something you are going to discuss in your essay’s body and your audience will want to keep reading to learn more.
“Spain, though hardly a literary juggernaut, translates more books in one year than the entire Arab world has in the past one thousand years.”
“Amiable is the best way to describe Elizabeth’s personality: she was friendly and caring.”
There is no harm in getting right to the point. Start with your main argument and use the rest of your essay to support your point of view. If you have an interesting take on a subject, readers will want to see where you came up with your idea.
“It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday. . .”
“Humans need to invest more time and money into space exploration because Earth is on a certain path to destruction.”
The most interesting essays will teach the readers something new. If you start your introduction by showing that a commonly accepted truth is actually false, your readers will be instantly hooked.
“Any parent will tell you that goldfish are a great first pet for a child. They hardly need any attention, and they won’t be around for too long. Flushing a goldfish in its first week is pretty common—it even happened to my first goldfish. But it turns out that goldfish aren’t as helpless as we all think.”
“While most coffee enthusiasts would tell you that their favorite drink comes from a bean, they would be wrong. Coffee is actually made from a seed that is simply called a bean.”
By listing proven facts at the very beginning of your paper, you will create interest that can be carried throughout the rest of the essay.
“The average iceberg weighs over 100,000 metric tons.”
“70% of all jobs found today were got through different networking strategies”
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Depending on the style of essay you are writing (narrative, persuasive, personal, critical, argumentative, deductive, etc.), the type of hook you will want to use will vary. Remember, your essay hook is just a tip of an iceberg and it will not guarantee that the rest of your essay will work. Be sure to organize your research and start with an outline before deciding on the best hook to start your essay. The right choice can make your paper truly interesting and worth reading.
Written by Lesley J. Vos, our blog writer and essay proofreader. Lesley is a big fan of reading, and she is always ready to help students come up with good ideas for their papers and reach their academic goals. You can always find her on Facebook and Google+.
After coming up with a specific topic, it is also important to identify the audience for an essay. As a writer, your audience is not whoever reads the essay (this is far too broad) or even simply your instructor (of course he/she will read the essay). Instead, the audience is the group of people you want to educate or persuade.
Why Audience Matters
Knowing the audience for a particular essay is important because it determines the content that will appear in the writing. The content of an essay that has a specific topic will vary depending on the intended audience. In other words, having a focused topic is important, but having a specific audience is equally important.
For example, let’s say you are writing an expository (informative) essay on the most important practice techniques in becoming a better tennis player. If your audience is beginning tennis players, or players who know little about the game, the techniques needed to get better are different than if you are writing to intermediate players who want to become good enough to enter and/or win tournaments. In the first example, the steps would be more basic, while in the second example they would obviously be more advanced. Either way, the topic of the essay, becoming a better tennis player, is the same, but because the audiences are different, the information in each essay will be different as well.
The same is true of an argument or persuasive essay. If you are arguing for a change to occur, identifying the level at which you want this change to occur and/or the people you want to persuade to help create this change (audience) is important. For example, an essay about the need for a change to Aims’ grading system can have different audiences. One potential audience may be the students who attend Aims, in which case explaining how this change would benefit students with more accurate grading becomes important. Another audience could be the Aims senior management, in which case the benefits to enrollment and student retention become important points to address.
More on Audience
Knowing the intended audience for an essay can also answer other questions that frequently arise. For instance, writers often wonder if the use of jargon (words or language related to a specific field) or acronyms (abbreviations of longer names/terms) is appropriate or must be explained. This question can be answered by knowing the audience. If the audience for an essay should understand these terms, then they don’t necessarily need to be explained and can be used. Put another way, if you are writing an essay on a medical topic and the audience is medical professionals, complex medical terms can and probably even should be used. If, on the other hand, your audience is a group of non-medical experts (ex: women diagnosed with breast cancer), such terms would need to be explained or not used at all.
Tip: One way to develop and sustain a specific audience is to incorporate the audience into the thesis statement. The following are examples of thesis statements that identify a specific audience:
Example #1: First time college students(audience) need to know the proper way to study for a final exam.
Example #2: The Greeley school district(audience) needs to implement mandatory school uniforms for all middle school students in order to facilitate better learning.