A Hook for an Essay

Good writing starts with a good first sentence. The first sentence of an essay is an important one. It is an opportunity to grab the reader's attention and make them want to read more. This is called the hook. A good hook for an essay catches the reader's attention and gets them interested in your topic. Let's go over the different types of hooks and the helpful ways to write them.

A Hook for an Essay A Hook for an Essay

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Table of contents

    Essay Hook Definition

    The hook is the first thing the reader sees in an essay. But what is it?

    A hook is an attention-grabbing opening sentence of an essay. The hook catches the reader's attention with an interesting question, statement, or quote.

    The hook catches the reader's attention by making them want to read more. There are many ways to "hook" the reader's attention. It all depends on your essay.

    A good hook is important to get the reader interested in what you have to say!

    Essay hook. Diagram of "hooking" the reader. StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - Catch the reader with a great hook.

    A Good Hook for an Essay

    A good hook is attention-grabbing, relevant to the essay's topic, and appropriate for the writer's purpose. Let's take a close look at the different features of a good hook.

    A Good Hook Is Attention-grabbing

    Imagine you are scrolling through your email inbox. The "preview" feature shows the first sentence of each email. Why? Because the first sentence of the email is an important one! It shows you whether the email is worth reading. You use these "previews" to decide whether you want to open that email.

    Think of the hook as that preview. The reader will use it to decide whether they want to read more.

    A good Hook Is Relevant

    Have you ever clicked on an article with an intriguing title only to learn that title was misleading? Misleading openers frustrate readers. Sure, it gets them interested. But it doesn't get them interested in the right thing.

    A good hook gets the reader interested in the subject of YOUR essay. Therefore, the hook should be relevant to your topic.

    A Good Hook Suits Your Purpose

    What type of hook you use depends on the purpose of your essay.

    Purpose in an essay is the effect the writer intends to have on the reader.

    A good hook puts the reader in the right mindset to receive your ideas.

    How do you want the reader to feel about your subject? What do you want them to care about?

    5 Types of Hooks For Writing an Essay

    The five types of hooks are questions, facts or statistics, strong statements, stories or scenes, and questions.

    Four of them are as follows. The final one, "quotes," deserves its own spot! Examples are provided.

    Questions for an Essay Hook

    Another way to get a reader's attention is to ask an interesting question. This could be a rhetorical question or a question you answer in the essay.

    A rhetorical question is a question with no real answer. Rhetorical questions are used to get a reader thinking about a subject or experience.

    Rhetorical questions help the reader personally connect to your topic. Here's an example.

    What would a world without war be like?

    You can also ask a question you will answer in the essay. This type of question interests the reader because they want to know the answer. They have to read the rest of your essay to get it! Here's an example of that.

    Why can't we watch anything without commercials anymore?

    Essay hook. Hands reach out of computer screens to trade goods and services. StudySmarter.Fig. 2 - Give your reader something to think about.

    Facts for an Essay Hook

    Did you know we create data every second of every day? By searching the web and using social media, we generate facts and statistics. Did that opener grab your attention? That's because it included a surprising fact.

    A surprising fact or statistic can shock the reader into paying attention. It can also make them want to know more.

    When writing a hook, you can use a fact or statistic that is:

    • Relevant to your topic.
    • Shocking enough to get the reader's attention.
    • A good demonstration of your topic's importance.

    1. Each year, people waste about 1 billion metric tons of food across the world.

    2. We might think of computers as a modern invention, but the first computer was invented in the 1940s.

    3. Children are always learning, and ask over 300 questions a day on average.

    Stories for an Essay Hook

    What better way to catch someone's attention than with a good story? Stories are great for getting the reader to think about an experience. Stories can come from anywhere!

    Some places you might find stories for hooks are:

    • Your personal experiences.
    • Experiences of your friends and family members.
    • Stories from books, tv, and film.
    • Stories of famous people.

    Which type of story you choose depends on your essay. What story would help the reader care about your subject? Here's an example of a story hook for an essay.

    When my brother was 8 years old, he was diagnosed with Autism. After struggling with school and social situations for 25 years, I was also diagnosed with Autism. Why was I not tested in childhood like my brother? According to recent studies, it might be because I was a girl.

    Note how the personal story of the writer highlights the point of their essay: gender differences in Autism diagnoses. This story gets the reader interested in the subject.

    Essay hook. Fidget spinners hold small flowers. StudySmarter.Fig. 3 - Share something you know well.

    Sometimes a whole story is too much for a hook. In this case, you may find it helpful to simply describe one scene from a story. A vivid description of a scene can be very powerful. When describing a scene, paint a picture of what the scene is like for the reader. Make them feel as if they are there.

    Here's an example of a great scene to start an essay.

    I feel like I'm going to throw up. This is my third time taking the SAT exams. The words swim in front of my eyes, and everything I studied suddenly leaves my brain. I know I'm going to fail a third time.

    Imagine this example is the hook for an essay about issues with standardized testing in schools. This scene is described in a way that shows how test anxiety is one of the big issues with standardized testing. It reminds the reader of what it's like for some students.

    Strong Statements for an Essay Hook

    Sometimes it's best to say what you mean upfront. A strong statement is a statement that takes a strong stance on an issue. Strong statements are particularly effective to argue a position or persuade.

    The reader will either agree or disagree with your statement. That's okay! If the reader disagrees, they will at least be interested to see how you support your statement.

    Online courses are the future of college.

    Would the first example be as interesting if it said "Online courses are a promising avenue of teaching at the college level that we should explore in the future"? No! When writing a strong statement, use strong words. Keep it strong. Keep it direct. Keep it simple.

    Quotes For an Essay Hook

    The fifth and final way to write a hook way is to use a quote.

    A quote is a direct copy of someone else's words. As an essay hook, a quote is a memorable sentence or phrase that gets the reader interested in your subject.

    When to Use a Quote Hook

    Use a quote for a hook in the following situations:

    • When your topic or argument makes you think of a quote
    • When someone else has already summed up your main idea perfectly
    • When an example from a text you are analyzing perfectly sums up your analysis

    Quotes seem like an easy choice for a hook. After all, using a quote means you don't have to come up with a sentence! But quotes are not always the best choice for a hook. Make sure the quote is relevant to your topic.

    Examples of Quote Hooks

    There are a few types of quotes you can use for a hook. Let's look at some examples of the different types of quotes in the table below:

    Quote TypeDescriptionExample
    Mindset QuoteSome quotes get the reader into the right mindset to understand your work. These types of quotes often speak to bigger truths the reader can identify with. Use mindset quotes to help the reader feel the way you want them to feel about the subject.

    "The opposite of hate is not love; it's indifference" (Weisel).1 Indifference is what is hurting our children. We cannot sit by and watch their mental health deteriorate any longer.

    Example QuoteYou can use a quote as an example of your main point. This example might come from a personal anecdote, a story you've read, popular culture, or a source you're using. Example quotes demonstrate the main idea of your essay.

    Carrie Underwood once said, "My cell phone is my best friend. It's my lifeline to the outside world." 2 Cell phones have become an important part of our lives.

    Source QuoteWhen your essay is focused on a text or set of texts, you might find they offer great quotes! A quote from a source helps set up your ideas about that source.

    According to the American Civil Liberties Union, "The death penalty violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection." 3But does it? Not everyone thinks so.

    Ways to Write an Essay Hook

    To write a hook for an essay, consider your purpose, look for what's out there, and try different things. When writing a hook, there are a lot of options. Don't get overwhelmed! Take the following approaches:

    Consider Your Essay's Purpose

    What effect do you want to have on the reader? What do you want the reader to think or feel about your subject? Choose a hook that will give you that effect.

    For example, if you want the reader to understand what an experience is like, tell a story. If you want the reader to feel the urgency of an issue, start with a surprising fact or statistic that demonstrates how important the topic is.

    Essay hook. An hourglass flows. StudySmarter.Fig. 4 - Is time running out? Let your reader know.

    Look for What's Out There

    Sometimes the perfect quote or story instantly comes to mind. Sometimes it does not. Don't be afraid to look! Use the internet, books, and friends to find ideas for hooks.

    For example, let's say you are writing an essay arguing that teachers need better pay. You could look for stories of teachers who pay for their own supplies. Or if you are explaining the effects of hallucinogens, look for quotes from people who have experienced them.

    Try Different Things

    Can't decide what to do? Try out different types of hooks! See what works best. Remember, the best writing comes from trial and error. Here's an example.

    You are writing an essay about the impacts of oil drilling on marine life. You look for a quote from a marine biologist. But all the quotes you find are inspirational! You wanted the reader to be outraged, not inspired. So, you tell a story to bring up those emotions. But your story is too long, and it doesn't really fit. Finally, you find a surprising fact about the death rates of whales that fits just right. Perfect!

    Essay Hook - Key Takeaways

    • A hook is an attention-grabbing opening sentence of an essay. The hook catches the reader's attention with an interesting question, statement, or quote.
    • A good hook is attention-grabbing, relevant to the essay's topic, and appropriate for the writer's purpose.
    • Purpose in an essay is the effect the writer intends to have on the reader.
    • The five types of hooks are quotes, questions, facts or statistics, strong statements, and stories or scenes.
    • To write a hook for an essay, consider your purpose, look for what's out there, and try different things.

    1 Elie Weisel. “One Must Not Forget.” US News & World Report. 1986.

    2 Carrie Underwood. "Carrie Underwood: What I've Learned," Esquire. 2009.

    3 American Civil Liberties Union. "The Case Against the Death Penalty." 2012.

    Frequently Asked Questions about A Hook for an Essay

    How do I write a hook for an essay?

    To write a hook for an essay: consider your purpose; look for quotes, stories, or facts about your topic; and try different things to start the essay in an interesting way. 

    What is a good hook for an essay? 

    A good hook for an essay might be a quote, question, fact or statistic, strong statement, or story that relates to the topic.

    How do I write a hook for an argumentative essay? 

    To write a hook for an argumentative essay, start off with a strong statement about your topic. The reader will be interested to see how you support your topic. Or you could start with a surprising fact or statistic, relevant quote, or story to get the reader interested in learning more.

    How do I start a hook for an essay?

    To start a hook for an essay, consider the effect you want to have on the reader and select a type of hook that will have that effect.

    How do I come up with a hook for an essay? 

    To come up with a hook for an essay, consider your purpose, look for what's out there, and try different types of hooks to see what works best.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What are the features of a good hook?

    True or false: A quote for a hook has to come from someone famous.

    When should one use a quote for a hook?

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