What is a hook?
A hook is an interesting sentence or paragraph that you can use at the beginning of a piece of writing to capture the reader’s interest. It sets the tone and convinces the reader to continue reading. A strong hook is important because it can help you demonstrate your writing skills to the audience. This can be especially important if you’re submitting a piece of writing for a grade, award or admission into a program.
1. Create an outline
Choose an audience: An outline can also give you an opportunity to define the audience—or the ideal reader—for your piece. This can help you establish a tone that matches the audience you have in mind.
2. Develop a thesis
After you’ve organized your outline, you can use it to develop a thesis. A thesis, also called a topic sentence, expresses the prevailing point of your piece. Here are a few guidelines for writing an effective thesis:
Ensure the thesis focuses on the topic. A good thesis helps emphasize the particular topic under consideration. Writing your thesis before the body of your piece can help you ensure your writing follows a specific idea.
Provide a specific thesis. The goal of the thesis is to describe why you’re writing the article or essay. A good thesis is specific yet descriptive enough that the reader can understand the purpose of your piece from the thesis alone.
Address each section in the thesis sentence. You can use your outline to write a thesis that describes the point of each section of your piece. For example, a thesis for a five-paragraph essay can address the main point that each paragraph makes to the reader.
3. Write your hook
Lastly, you can use your outline and thesis to compose a hook that draws the reader’s attention, promotes the focus of your article and remains suitable for your audience. Here are a few things to think about as you write your hook:
Audience: Think about the audience for which you’re writing as you create a hook. Taking into account their interests, desires, fears and other considerations will both shape and be affected by your hook.
Tips for writing an effective hook
1. Start with an interesting fact
One strategy you can use to write a hook that attracts your readers’ attention is to begin your piece with an interesting or obscure fact. This strategy can help you appeal to your readers’ senses of wonder and reason and encourage them to continue reading.
2. Use a compelling anecdote
Another strategy for writing a hook is to use a short, personal story that relates to your topic. An anecdote can appeal to your readers’ emotions or feelings of compassion. Here are a few tips you can use to write an anecdotal hook:
Use the STAR method. STAR stands for situation, task, action and response. This method is commonly used to answer interview questions or present your work history on your resume, but it can also help you write an anecdote that’s short but compelling.
Ensure your anecdote matches the tone of your writing. Choose an anecdote that likely would appeal to the audience you’re writing for to help ensure it matches the tone of the rest of your piece.
Limit anecdotes for more formal writing. An anecdotal hook is an informal way of introducing a piece of writing. If you’re writing a serious essay or article, limit your use of anecdotes and opt for a hook that matches the formality of the piece.
Example: In my career as a social worker, one immigrant family I worked with didn’t know English, which made it challenging for my agency to address the family’s needs. I connected the family with English classes at the local community center. By the end of the year, the children in the family spoke fluent English, while the adults could successfully converse with me in English. This experience taught me the importance of connecting families with community resources.
3. Begin your writing with a quote
Another effective technique for writing a hook is to begin your piece with a relevant quote. To find a quote, you can research prominent individuals in your industry or field of study and learn about their famous statements and sayings. Starting with a quote can lend an air of authority to your piece and stir reader interest.
4. Explain a common misconception
If you want to surprise your readers, you can write a hook that addresses a common misconception to draw their interest. This can be a powerful and credible way to introduce an idea.
5. Use data to inform your thesis
Writing a hook that uses an impressive statistic or other interesting data can help you spark a reader’s interest. Be sure to use trustworthy sources when you’re gathering your data to ensure your information is correct.
6. Tell a joke
If you’re writing a less formal piece, such as a speech or blog post, an effective strategy for writing a hook is to begin by telling a joke or humorous story. This can entertain the reader while drawing their interest.
7. Ask a question
You can also ask a question in a hook that can set the tone for the rest of the content. Readers may want to know the answer to the question, which can encourage them to read on to learn more about the topic. You can also ask a rhetorical question, or a question with an obvious answer, to introduce a topic.
8. Use a contradictory statement
Another hook that you can use to surprise your reader is to use a contradictory statement. To use this hook, you can contradict an accepted fact or take a contrarian stance on a disputed topic.
Example: While a declining number of professionals in this industry report high job satisfaction, this has not been true for me. I look at the challenges our industry faces as opportunities for growth and advancement.
9. Define a term
A common strategy for writing a shorter hook is to define a term for the reader. This is a versatile way to introduce a subject that you can use with a variety of writing styles, audiences and tones.
Front-load actions and choices
The danger of beginning with slowly-evolving backstory is that by the time you get to characters’ actions, predicaments and conflicts the reader’s lost interest. This isn’t to say that stories that unfold slowly can’t be successful. Yet if we’re looking at hooks, often the most compelling opening is the most dynamic and character-based.
Pin, standing on the doorstep of the cobbler’s shop, with his nose in the air, just has to give a cry from his throat – a cry to start off a song, or a yell just before the hand of Pietromagro the cobbler lands on the back of his neck to strike him – and a chorus of shouts and insults pours from every window.
This action, the character standing and making a noise outside the cobbler’s shop, is curious. We wonder what his motivation is for disturbing the owner. What is it about his voice or presence that irritates the shop’s inhabitants so much? It’s a strange but effective hook, suggesting a world brimming with character and incident.
Keep secondary details minimal
Don’t describe characters putting off their alarms and eating breakfast, unless these in themselves are humorous or interesting situations that reveal, in their course, surprising or intriguing character details.
While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years. I’d been shut up in my hotel for more than a week, afraid to telephone anybody or go out; and my heart scrambled and floundered at even the most innocent noises…
The detail about the mother is important as the character’s mother plays a crucial role in the early unfolding chapters of the novel. We also ask ‘Why?’ Why is the character so unsettled by ‘even the most innocent noises’?
Through this opening we see a character’s curious, mysterious emotional state. Tartt gives us just enough of a sense of their environment (they’re travelling in Europe) and starts to fill in a primary relationship.
7. Don’t Forget About the Title
We know how much thought and effort you put into your content. For this reason, we wanted to emphasize the importance of learning how to write a good hook , so that your audience doesn’t miss out on what you bring to the conversation.
Focusing on the first couple of sentences of your text is crucial when you think about what is at stake — the choice your audience makes in the first seconds of reading your content.
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