“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens in his “A Tale of Two Cities.” This sentence, with its riddle-like structure that both challenges and enthralls the reader, is often used to define the hook sentence concept. As the name implies, a hook sentence “hooks” the reader from the get-go and keeps him actively engaged with the words on the page. Getting the reader’s attention early on in your essay is paramount to keeping his attention going so that he’ll actually want to read the rest of your work. The good news is that you don’t need Dickensian aspirations to come up with a killer hook sentence for a simple essay. Let’s look at how you can sell your reader on what your essay has to offer.
Identify the Audience for Your Paper
If you’re writing an essay, you likely are writing to please one person only – your instructor, teacher, or professor. In this case, your audience is clearly defined, and the hook sentence that you write for this type of essay may be completely different from the hook you might come up with if you were writing an essay to share in the school paper with your friends. The audience determines the message that you portray in your hook sentence; it should speak directly to the audience, and the audience should be able to easily relate to what you say on its own level.
Figure Out What Matters to Your Audience
It can also help to determine what matters to your audience. Your professor is looking for specific information; likely this means that you should demonstrate knowledge of the subject being discussed. The professor may also be looking for mastery of APA or MLA style elements. By contrast, if you’re writing an opinion piece for the newspaper, then write with an eye to appealing to like-minded readers with whom you share a common concern.
Effective Hook Sentences
There is no formula for creating a hook sentence, so let your creativity and a few proven strategies guide you. Consider these examples:
- Give advice. “If you want to have friends, you have to be a friend first.”
- Provide an anecdote. Use a short or unbelievable factoid or story about an incident or person to get the reader’s attention. “Mariah Carey lives in an apartment worth millions of dollars, but her sister is homeless.”
- Make a bold statement. “Before long, doctors will be able to print new kidneys using 3D printing systems.”
- State a contradiction. “Donald Trump claims he can balance the national budget, but he’s filed bankruptcy several times.”
- Define something as your hook. “Agoraphobics are people who do not go out of their homes for extended periods of time; some haven’t been shopping in years.”
- Present the reader with a dilemma. “Enforcing immigration laws keeps terrorists out of the country, but it also breaks up families and destroys lives.”
- Go for a quote. “We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know” – W. H. Auden.
- Open with humor. “I am not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
- Ask the reader a rhetorical question. “What does it really mean to be bored?”
- Share a statistic or factoid. “As many as 80 percent of students report cramming for finals the night before.”
- Share a personal tidbit. “When I was growing up, there was no Internet, so kids looked up information in encyclopedias.”
Ultimately, the hook sentence you choose should be one that sparks interest and that is directly relatable to what you plan to write and the style you choose for your essay. A good hook can make or break your essay, so put a little elbow grease into crafting yours to make your essay shine.