How to Write a Great Hook

Updated November 21, 2019
write a great hook for your readers
    write a great hook for your readers
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Knowing how to write a great hook is an important skill that every writer should have. The world is coated in a sea of words. There are essays, novels, blogs, scripts, short stories, poetry, speeches, and more. With words vibrating off the atmosphere day in and day out, how can you ever craft something that would lure any number of the billions of people in the world? The answer is simple. Start with a great hook.

What Is a Hook?

A hook is the line or lines written to lure a reader or listener in and make them want to learn more. It's an introduction that's meant to grab hold of people's attention. For example, in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, the following line appears early on, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Thought-provoking, right?

  • In an essay, the hook should fall within the first line or two of the introduction.
  • In longer works of fiction, such as short stories, novels, plays, and scripts, you can incorporate the hook into the title or write it into one of the opening scenes.

Types of Hooks With Examples

There are a few options that might serve as a good hook if you feel like you can't come up with a striking statement on your own. It's fine to use a quote, offer a statistic or pose a question as your hook.

Use Quotations

Quotes can be a great spark to light the fire. Let's say you're writing an essay about a particular author. Why not offer up one of their most poignant quotes? If you’re writing a paper about the legendary Ernest Hemingway, you might want to begin with a quote that demonstrates his strength of character.

"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self."

Perhaps you're drafting a persuasive essay. Feature someone prominent in the community you're discussing and use one of their most striking lines as your hook. If you were writing about the benefits of world travel, you might want to incorporate a line or two from a famous travel TV host, like Rick Steves.

"Travel is rich with learning opportunities, and the ultimate souvenir is a broader perspective."


Include Statistics

Statistics can play a powerful role in hooks, similar to a quote. If you're writing a persuasive essay, consider kicking things off with a striking statistic that will blow readers' minds and encourage them to want to learn more or to disprove a common misconception. If you’re writing a persuasive piece about the perils of alcohol consumption. You might want to begin with a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistic that paints a dire scene.

According to a recent report from the CDC, alcohol poisoning kills six people every day in the United States. That same report also reveals there are over 15 million people currently struggling with alcohol use disorder.

Pose Questions

Consider opening up with a thought-provoking question. Steer clear of yes or no questions, because there's nowhere to go from there. Use an open-ended question to churn the wheels of curiosity. If you’re writing a piece about essay writing versus novel writing, you might want to consider something similar to this great example of a hook, stated clearly in the first line of an essay by Zadie Smith.

Why do novelists write essays? Most publishers would rather have a novel.


Crack Jokes

A joke can be a great hook for a short story or novel. It will set the tone for the piece and give the readers a sense about the main character. Hopefully, they'll immediately be drawn to him or her. A great hook, like this example by Paul Hellman, could open up a short story or novel.

"Every night, 20 new people hate my guts," the big muscular guy said. "On a good night, 30 people." Then he spit. "I could care less."

Tell Anecdotes

Depending on the nature of your piece, an anecdote can also be an interesting way to hook readers in. Typically, you want to avoid writing in the first person in an essay, but perhaps you have a story you can relay in the third person to lure readers in.

Wendy is a tried and true New Yorker who's lived there all her life. Yet, even in a city with over 8.5 million people, she's never been able to shake off the dregs of loneliness.

If you're writing a narrative essay, an anecdote is the perfect place to start. It has the power to make you instantly relatable to your readers.


How to Write a Catchy Opening

No matter what kind of hook you decide to use, be sure your prose gives readers a reason to pick up your writing or prick up their ears and see your idea through to the end. Hooks are boxed up into one to two sentences and have just enough of a thought-provoking element to entice people to want to read more. Discover how to write a hook and take a look at a few examples that might lead you to your very own creation.

Know Your Message/Thesis

Before you can write a great hook, you must have a clear vision of the message you want to convey. The hook needs to tie in to your thesis statement or main idea.

  • If you use a quote or a statistic to shock readers into paying attention, be sure it's directly related to the topic at hand.
  • The same goes for a joke. If you'd like to entice readers with a joke, it must, of course, relate to your thesis.

Identify the Audience

Equally important, be sure you understand your audience and keep them in mind throughout the entirety of your written work.

Define the Tone

Will this be a formal piece or something more laid back and conversational? That will influence the tone of your hook. Perhaps you'll include a stark statistic for something more formal. Meanwhile, you might want to consider a joke to kick things off in a more conversational tone.

Select a Method to Capture Attention

Once you know what message you want to convey, who your target audience is and the tone of the piece, the next step is to decide what information you can use to capture their attention and how to best present it. Consider the different types of hooks and what you know about the topic so you can make an informed decision about the best technique to use.


Brainstorm for Catchy Phrases

Once you have decided what type of hook is best suited for your writing project, brainstorm to come up with ways to get your point across. Consider reviewing some examples of great hooks as a source of inspiration, then get to work coming up with possible options to use in your own work.

  • If you want to use a quote or statistic, do some research to find one specific to your topic. Look up articles in publications that cover the topic or do an internet search using an appropriate phrase paired with the word quote or statistic.
  • If you like the idea of starting with a question, make a list of questions related to your topic and review the ideas to identify which one(s) might be most effective. If you have friends in your target audience, consider asking their opinions on which of your top choices would be most likely to encourage them to want to learn more.
  • If you prefer using a joke or anecdote, think through the story you want to use to convey your point in a humorous way, then ponder how to accomplish your goal in just one or two sentences.

Start Writing

Once you have gone through these steps, you’ll be ready to start writing. Begin with your hook and let the words flow through your keyboard or writing instrument. Once you have a first draft, review your work from start to finish, paying special attention to how effective the hook is in addition to ordinary proofreading.

If the hook isn’t quite compelling enough, consider alternate options and revise until you’re sure readers will be compelled to want to read your work. It’s not at all unusual for a writer to tweak the hook several times throughout the writing process.

Hooks Grab Attention

Hooks come in many shapes and sizes. That means the door is wide open for you to lure readers in. Whenever you're writing, always keep your audience in mind. This is especially true for the introductory elements, namely the hook and your thesis statement. Now that you have some ideas in mind, review these thesis statement examples to get your creative juices flowing. You can also check out compelling hook examples for inspiration.