How do you write a hook? If you can’t answer this deceptively simple question, you might as well stop writing forever. Without a decent hook, the chance of anyone reading your work is statistically zero. With that said, let’s define hooks, discuss how to write a compelling hook, and look at some examples.
What is a hook in writing?
A hook is a technique used in fiction and non-fiction writing. The term hook refers to the opening sentence or sentences of a work designed to stir interest in a reader and encourage them to continue reading to the end of the article or story. In other words, the hook catches a reader’s attention much like a hook on the end of a fishing line catches a fish with bait.
Let’s continue this analogy of the fishing hook. You need to bait your hook with a tasty worm or a flashy lure to catch a fish. Writers bait their hooks using techniques as tempting to a reader’s interest as a fat worm is to bass or catfish. These hook techniques include posing an intriguing question or stating a frightening statistic. We’ll talk about all of these techniques later in the article.
Definition of a Hook:
A hook in writing is a sentence or group of sentences that capture the reader’s attention and interest. It is generally the opening component of an essay, article, or story. It is meant to entice readers so that they will want to keep reading.
The 10 types of hooks
A rhetorical question is a question that is asked to make a point rather than to get an answer. Rhetorical questions are often used in speeches and essays, where they are used to engage the audience or emphasize a point. For this reason, rhetorical questions can make an excellent hook. With a rhetorical question hook, a writer can:
- elicit a particular response from the reader or listener
- create an emotional reaction
- emphasize a point
- make an argument more persuasive
- engage the reader or listener’s attention
- generate interest in a topic
For example, a speaker might ask, “How many of you have ever felt like you didn’t belong?” This is a rhetorical question. The speaker already knows the answer and is not looking for a response from the audience.
Instead, the question is meant to make the audience stop and think about their own experience. In addition to being used for emphasis, rhetorical questions can create suspense or build tension. For instance, a writer might use a rhetorical question at the end of a chapter to leave readers wondering what will happen next. Whether they create emphasis or suspense, rhetorical questions can be a powerful tool for writers and speakers.
By sharing shocking or unexpected data, you can grab your audience’s attention and make them more likely to listen to what you have to say. Whether you’re talking about the scope of a problem or the success of a solution, statistics can help you generate interest and hold your audience’s attention. Here are a few examples of starling statistics from the website bestlifeonline.com:
- The average drunk driver drives under the influence more than 80 times before being arrested the first time. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- More than 36 million U.S. adults cannot read above a third-grade level. Source: ProLiteracy.
- And more than half a million people in America experience homelessness a night. Source: U.S Department Of Housing and Urban Development.
Just be sure that the statistics you use are reliable and from a reputable source. Otherwise, you risk losing credibility with your audience. Using false or unreliable statistics can cause your readers to become skeptical or even hostile.
For example, a recent Gallup poll found that only 36% of Americans trust the media. Using statistics from the media in a speech can alienate much of the audience. It’s essential to be careful when using statistics in writing, as they can easily make or break an argument.
Used effectively, however, statistics can be a powerful tool for making your case and getting people to pay attention.
Famous or Inspiring Quotes
The most challenging task for any writer is capturing a concept or idea with the perfect combination of words. Luckily, better writers have come before us; we can borrow their words when we find our own lacking. These quotes can provide both inspiration and comfort, and they can also help us to understand our own thoughts and feelings better. Using quotations in your hook can be an excellent way to connect with your audience and add depth to your work.
Here are a few resources where you can find the perfect quote for your next essay or speech:
- BrainyQuote: separates quotes into several functional categories.
- QuotesonDesign: generates random inspirational quotes with the click of your mouse.
- Thinkexist: a searchable database of quotes based on topic, author, or keyword.
- Goodreads: Goodreads is one of the best resources for quotes from famous authors.
- QuoteLand: another searchable database with the added benefit of live discussion boards.
- Wikiquote: a free online compendium of sourced quotes that links to Wikipedia for further information.
- Quotery: search for specific quotes or explore random quotes by topic.
Paint a Picture
Engage your readers’ imagination with this hook by painting a picture in their minds. This technique works well when you’re writing a personal narrative or other non-fiction narratives. Take the highest moment of tension in your story, the climax, and describe it by appealing to all five senses.
However, what you don’t want to do is explicitly tell your reader what’s happening or the outcome of the event. Instead, you use foreshadowing and a bit of non-linear storytelling to give your reader an enticing hint at what is coming in your text.
To use this hook technique, take the highest point of tension in your text and describe it using as much sensory detail as possible.
What does the climax of your story:
- Look like?
- Smell like?
- Taste like?
- Feel like?
- Sound like?
You may not want to use all five senses; in fact, it is better not to give your reader enough detail and let their imagination do the rest.
Tell a Story
A good story can hook readers in and keep them engaged from start to finish. A story can provide insight into the human experience, whether it be humorous, heartwarming, or even tragic. When used as a hook in writing, a story can help set the tone and give readers a glimpse into what is to come.
Done poorly, however, a story can be dry and dull, quickly losing the interest of even the most dedicated reader. As such, it is crucial to strike the right balance when writing a story as a hook. Whether personal or fictional, choose a story that is interesting and engaging and will give readers a reason to stick around until the end.
Extreme statements are one type of hook that can be used effectively to engage readers. By making a bold claim or assertion, writers can pique readers’ curiosity and prompt them to want to know more. For example, imagine reading the following opening sentence:
“By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9 billion, and we will not have enough food to feed half of this number.”
This statement is shocking and provocative. It immediately raises questions in readers’ minds, like “How did the author come up with this number?” and “What consequences will this have for the planet?” By starting with an extreme statement, writers can set the stage for an informative and engaging piece.
Tell a Joke
Although the folly of many a Best Man, a good joke can be a great way to start a piece of writing. Not only does it grab the reader’s attention, but it also sets the tone for the rest of the article. When used effectively, a joke can help to establish a rapport with the reader and create a sense of intimacy. A joke, done poorly, can come across as forced or tacky.
The key is to choose a joke that is relevant to the topic at hand, and that will resonate with the audience. When in doubt, it is always best to err on the side of caution and avoid alienating your reader with an off-color joke. With a little effort, you can use humor to your advantage and hook your reader from the very first sentence.
Evoke a Feeling/Emotion
One way to hook a reader is to evoke an emotion in your readers. Whether you are writing about a personal experience or trying to raise awareness about an important issue, if you can connect with your readers emotionally, you will be more likely to engage them in your writing.
To do this, you must be clear about what emotion you want to evoke and how you plan to do it. Once you have a plan, try to be concise and transparent in your writing. Remember, the goal is not to overwhelm your readers with emotions but to give them a taste of what you are talking about so that they will want to continue reading.
A personal story can be a powerful way to hook readers and keep them engaged. By sharing something from your own life, you can provide a relatable and authentic perspective that helps to connect with your audience.
Whether you’re writing about your struggles or triumphs, sharing a personal story can help to create a strong emotional response in your readers. In addition, personal stories can also be used to illustrate more significant points or themes.
By sharing a specific example, you can make abstract concepts more concrete and accessible for your readers. Whether you’re writing an essay, memoir, or blog post, incorporating a personal story can effectively engage your audience and communicate your message.
Use a Metaphor or Analogy
When writing, a metaphor can help explain an idea or concept. Using an analogy, you can give your reader a frame of reference that they can understand. For example, if you were trying to explain what it feels like to be in love, you could say it is like this:
“A rose’s beauty draws you in, but be careful its thorns can prick.”
Using this metaphor, you can give your reader a way to understand the experience of being in love: beautiful and painful.
Analogies can also be used to make complex ideas more understandable. For instance, if you were trying to explain quantum mechanics, you could say it is:
“Like trying to see in the dark: we know something is there, but we can’t see it.”
By providing this analogy, you can give your reader a way to visualize what quantum mechanics is and how it works. In both cases, using a metaphor or analogy can help make your writing more engaging and understandable.
How to write a hook sentence in six steps
Step 1: Choose the correct technique for your hook.
First, you need to decide what kind of hook you will write. This choice has everything to do with the tone and genre of your writing. For instance, you probably want to avoid using a joke hook in a scholarly paper. On the flip side, a startling statistic wouldn’t make sense to open a wedding speech.
Step 2: Make sure it’s in the right place.
A hook is meant to grab your readers’ attention and compel them to read the rest of your text. So, the hook should be at the beginning of your writing, with nothing else preceding it.
Ok, the title will come before your hook. However, with the rise of clickbait, titles have become hooks in their own right. Start with your hook, no exceptions!
Step 3: Write a hook that is the correct length.
Hooks are proportional to the length of text you’re writing. So, a twenty-paragraph article for a magazine or newspaper may have a hook one or two paragraphs long. However, if you’re writing a four or five-paragraph essay for your high school theme paper, your hook will only last a sentence, maybe two.
What you don’t want is a two-paragraph long hook in five paragraph essay. The best hook is a short one that is to the point.
Step 4: Set the tone.
A good hook can also help set the tone for your writing. If you’re writing something lighthearted and funny, your hook should reflect that. On the other hand, if you’re writing something more serious, ensure your hook is also appropriately toned.
Step 5: Know your audience.
It’s important to know who you’re writing for when crafting your hook. What will resonate with your audience? What will grab their attention? Keep your audience in mind as you write so you can tailor your hook accordingly.
Step 6: Transition into the purpose of your writing.
What comes after you hook? Your thesis! Once you’ve hooked your reader, it’s essential to tell them, in a short thesis statement, what the purpose of your text is. Refrain from making sure readers guess what the main idea of your essay is. Tell them what you’re going to tell them. A good thesis statement will focus your writing and keep your readers engaged.
Dr. Martin Luther King- I Have a Dream
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
In the opening lines of his famed speech, King alludes to another famous speech- Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. By referencing a speech made in the aftermath of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, King reminds his audience of the sacrifices made in the long struggle for equality and civil rights.
Sojourner Truth- Ain’t I A Woman?
Well children … Well there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that betwixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North all talking about rights these white men going to be in a fix pretty soon.
Sojourner Truth famously improvised her speech, Ain’t I A Woman. She opens with a bit of humor and sets the tone for her straightforward yet powerful words.
Carl Sagen- Pale Blue Dot
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.
Sagen reminds his readers of the startlingly insignificant reality of our world when contrasted to the vast universe.
Amanda Gorman- The Hill We Climb
When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
With the opening lines of her poem, Gorman creates a beautiful metaphor comparing a transition during political and social upheaval to the dawn of a new day.
Jamie Oliver- Teach Every Child About Food
Sadly, in the next 18 minutes… four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food that they eat.
This fact is shocking and focuses the audience’s attention on Oliver’s subject- the obesity epidemic in America.
The bottom line on hooks- make it short, memorable, and if you can’t think of anything… use a quote. That’s all on hooks for now, but if you liked this article, and found it helpful, do us a favor and share it!