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April 10, 2024
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How to Write Great Essay Hooks (Tips + Examples)

How to Write Great Essay Hooks (Tips + Examples)

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Blank screen. Cursor blinks. Clock ticks. Brain freezes.

You stressfully wonder, “How will I ever finish this essay?”

I’ve been there. 

Every time you write an essay, you want to catch your readers’ undivided attention from the very first word. The opening hook has to be *perfect* — no compromises. 

But, instead of reeling under pressure to come up with this elusively perfect essay hook at the eleventh hour, I’ve found a better way to write great essay hooks. 

In this guide, I’ll tell you what it takes to write the most compelling and attention-grabbing hooks. I’ll also break down six awesome types of essay hooks you can experiment with and share examples to inspire your next opening statement.

What is an Essay Hook?

An essay hook is the opening statement of an essay, written to capture readers' attention and nudge them to learn more about the topic. Also known as a lede or lead, this hook introduces readers to the topic/theme of the essay and piques their curiosity to continue reading. 

The hook creates the entire narrative for your essay. It tells readers what to expect from the rest of the essay and creates context around your main argument or thesis statement. 

6 Types of Essay Hooks You Can Experiment With

I’ve created this handy list of six different types of essay hooks. You can choose the one that best fits your essay’s context and create a stellar opening statement within minutes. 

1. Compelling fact or statistic

Lead with evidence and use a powerful fact or statistic as your essay hook. It’s one of the best ways to capture readers’ attention from the start and keep them intrigued throughout your essay. 

For example, if you’re writing about the importance of time management for freelancers, you have two options to create your opening sentence:

Generic: “Managing time as a freelancer is no easy feat.”

Impactful: “Nearly 70% of freelancers struggle to effectively divide and manage their time between multiple clients.” 

This data point, linked to the original research, sets a strong tone for your essay and draws people in to read more. It communicates  

Find a shocking statistic with AI

Finding relevant statistics for any topic is one of the hardest parts of the job. 

But you don't have to spend hours looking for these data points anymore. Wordtune can do this heavy lifting for you in three easy steps.

  • Open the Wordtune editor and add your essay title. 
  • Type in any content you've written, click on 'Add spice,' and select the 'Expand on' option.
  • Write 'statistics,' and Wordtune will add relevant data points to your content.

2. Bold claim hook

When working on an argumentative essay, I always write with the mindset that nobody has the time to read my thoughts from start to finish. So, I have to get to the point quickly and make a solid argument worth people’s time. 

That's when opening with a bold claim works best. Condense all your views on the topic into a few thought-provoking lines that would make readers go, hmmm…

But remember, you can't open with a claim that people already know and accept as fact. It has to be something original and unique to make your readers tick, nudging them to dive deeper into your essay. 

For example, if you’re writing about water crisis, you have two options to open your essay: 

Boring:

"In some regions, there is not enough clean water for people to use."

Bold:

"Imagine a world where every drop of water is a battle, a precious commodity fought over by scores of people and animals alike. This can become a reality as early as 2050."

This bold claim presents a convincing argument about the global water crisis. It also emphasizes the urgency of this argument with a research-backed statistic.

Create a bold claim suggestion using AI

Can’t think of a strong opening sentence for your essay? Wordtune can translate your thoughts into a bold claim and create a compelling essay hook. 

Open your Wordtune editor and write a few lines related to your topic. These sentences should have a consensus among your audience. Then, choose the 'Counterargument' option from the list of suggestions. 

And you’ll have a bold claim for your essay with no effort at all!

3. Story/Anecdote hook

In all my years of writing, I’ve noticed how stories have a unique effect on people. A good story can resonate with a bigger audience, pique their curiosity, and deliver a more personal message. 

That's why you can cite a personal anecdote or talk about a publicly known story as a good hook for your essay. This hook allows you to play with words and work in more storytelling

One of my favorite writing tips applies here: enter the scene as late as possible and leave as early as possible. You have to keep it crisp instead of rambling on and on. 

Consider these two examples:

Either of these hooks could work fine if we were just writing a personal essay about a move to a new place. But if we’re specifically writing about the sky, the second example is better. It sticks to the point — the sky and the color of the sky — and doesn’t stray into irrelevant details. 

Create a compelling story with AI

I get it—not all of us are natural storytellers. But you can use AI to your advantage to create a concise and exciting story for your essay.  

Wordtune can help you write a short story from scratch or trim down your writing into a quick anecdote. Click on the expand or shorten button to edit your story any way you like. 

4. Question Hook

Humans have a tendency to immediately look for answers every time they come across fascinating questions. Using questions as essay hooks can reel people into your essay and feed their curiosity.

But questions are also fairly overused in essays. You don't want to use a generic question that makes people say, " Not another question." 

Instead, think of questions that approach your topic from a fresh angle. This means honing in on what was especially interesting or surprising from your research—and maybe even brainstorming different questions to find the most fascinating one.

For example, if you’re writing about the psychology behind why we buy, you have two options to open your essay:

Bland:

“Do you know what factors compel us to buy certain things?”

Plugged in:

“Before buying anything, have you ever taken a moment to pause and think about possible reasons driving you to this purchase?”

The latter is more descriptive and creates a realistic scenario for readers to truly think about the topic of the essay.

5. Description hook

A descriptive hook works best when writing an explanatory or opinion-led essay. Descriptive hooks, as the name suggests, illustrate a topic in detail to create context for the essay. It's a good way to build awareness for and educate readers on lesser-known themes.

But a descriptive hook can easily become too plain or unexciting to read. To make it work, you have to write an engaging description using imagery, analogies, and other figures of speech. 

Remember to make your hook reader-friendly by avoiding passive voice, mainstream cliches, and lengthy sentences.

Consider this example:

Describing a sunset is too cliche, so cross that one off the list. Describing the sky as it is on a normal day wouldn't be shocking or unexpected, so scratch that one, too.

This example creates something unique by using analogies to describe the color of the sky and painting a beautiful picture. 

Write a gripping description with AI

Writing an exciting hook for a boring topic is more challenging than it looks. But Wordtune makes it a breeze with just two steps:

  • Open the Wordtune editor and write your essay topic.
  • Click on Explain or Emphasize and let it work its magic.

You can also change the tone of voice to make the text more in tune with your theme. 

6. Metaphor hook

One of my favorite essay hooks is to open with a persuasive metaphor to contextualize the topic. Metaphors can help you approach the topic from a completely different lens and wow your readers with interesting insight. 

Metaphors are also super versatile to make your writing more impactful. You can write a one-line metaphor or create a scenario comparing one thing to another and linking it to your topic. 

For example, if you’re writing about the experience of working at a startup, you can open your essay with these two options:

Short & sweet: "Joining a startup is like strapping into a rollercoaster: be ready to witness thrilling highs and sinking drops."

Long & descriptive: “Picture a small sailboat navigating the unpredictable winds and tides in a vast ocean. That’s a startup operating in a massive market. And with the right vision, this journey is filled with risks and rewards.” 

Create a convincing metaphor with AI

Writing good metaphors takes up a lot of creative brain power. You can always use Wordtune to find some extra inspiration if you're out of creative ideas. 

Type your opening line in the Wordtune editor and click on the 'Give an analogy' option. You can ask for as many suggestions as you want till you find the best one! 

What to Know About Your Essay (and Topic) Before You Write the Hook

Whether you’re writing a research paper on economics, an argumentative essay for your college composition class, or a personal essay sharing your thoughts on a topic, you need to nail down a few things before you settle on the first line for your essay.

Let me break them down for you. 

1. Gain in-depth knowledge of your topic

Before you start writing your essay, you need to know your topic — not just in name, but in-depth. You don't have to become a subject matter expert overnight. But you do need to research the topic inside out 

Your research will help you:

  • Narrow your focus
  • Build an argument
  • Shape the narrative

Your research insights determine your essay’s structure and guide your choice of hook. 

After organizing your research in a neat outline, think to yourself: ‍Did you uncover a shocking fact? A compelling anecdote? An interesting quote? Any of those things could be your hook.

⚡ ‍Take action: After finishing your research, review your notes and think through your essay. Mark or make a list of anything compelling enough to be a good lead.

2. Type of essay

In academic settings, there are generally three kinds of essays:

  • Argumentative: Making the case for a certain stance or route of action.
  • Expository: Explaining the who, what, when, where, why, and how of some phenomenon.
  • Narrative: Telling a true story as a way to explore different ideas.

The type of essay you’re writing is key to choosing the best hook for your piece. 

A serious argumentative essay can start with a shocking statistic or a bold claim. And an expository essay can open with a descriptive hook while a metaphor hook would work best for a narrative essay.

⚡ ‍Take action: Go through your list of potential hooks and cross out anything that doesn't fit the type of essay you're writing, whether it's persuasive, argumentative, or any other type.

3. Audience and tone

A best practice I often share with writers is to think of one reader and keep yourself in their shoes. This exercise can tell you so much about your audience — what kind of tone they like, what matters the most to them, what topics interest them, and so on. 

You can use these insights to create a compelling essay hook. Here’s how:

  • For an argumentative essay, you’re trying to convince someone who doesn’t agree with you that what you’re claiming is right or, at least, reasonable. You don’t want to turn them off with snarky or offensive language — but you do want to be authoritative. Your hook should match that tone and support your effort.
  • A narrative essay is likely to welcome more lyrical language, so starting with a colorful description or an anecdote might make more sense than, say, a bold claim or surprising fact. Whatever tone you choose for your narrative essay — comical or gentle or bold — should be used for your hook.
  • Expository essays can use all sorts of tones and be written to a variety of audiences, so think carefully about the tone that best fits your subject matter. An essay explaining how the human body shuts down when overdosed will likely require a different tone than one on the lives of circus masters in the late 1800s. 

⚡ ‍Take action: Look at your list. Can you write these potential hooks in a tone that suits your subject and audience?

4. Length of essay

Are you writing a 10-page paper or a three-page reflection? Or is this your senior thesis, pushing over 100 pages?

If you’re writing a shorter paper, you’ll want to keep your hook quick and snappy. 

Readers are expecting a quick read, and they don’t want to spend five minutes only going through the introduction. 

In contrast, you can approach a longer essay — like a senior thesis or a term paper — with a longer hook. Just make sure your hook relates to and supports the core point of your essay. You don’t want to waste space describing a scene that ultimately has nothing to do with the rest of your piece.

⚡ ‍Take action: If you write out the items on your list, how long will they be? A sentence or paragraph? Perfect. Two to five paragraphs? Unless your essay is on the longer side, you may want to save that information for later in the piece.

Now that you know the basic facts about what you’re writing, let’s look at some approaches you could use to catch those readers — and reel them in.

3 Approaches to Avoid When Writing Hooks 

I’ve read hundreds of essays — enough to recognize lazy writing from the first few words. It’s equally easy for readers to discard your essays as ‘poorly written’ just by reading the first line. 

So, I made a list of three types of essay hooks you want to avoid at all costs because these hooks can only disappoint your readers. 

1. Quotations

Quotes are probably the most overused type of hook in any form of writing. What's even worse is rinsing and repeating the same old quotes from Abraham Lincoln or Nelson Mandela in your essays. 

No matter how powerful a quote sounds, you shouldn’t slap it at the opening of your essay. It doesn’t give readers the excitement of reading something original and looks lazy.

For example, if you’re writing an essay on productivity, here’s what a good and bad lede looks like:

❌ Bad:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work” – Stephen King

✅ Good:

Did you know that consuming 100 gms of sugar can slash your productivity levels by over 50% in a day?  

2. Definitions

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a hook as "a thing designed to catch people's attention." 

If I opened my article with this dictionary definition of a hook, you’d have either dozed off or left this page long back to find something more interesting. 

Here's the thing: definitions put people to sleep. Readers don't want to see a formal, jargon-heavy definition of a topic as the very first line of an essay. Your opening statement should have some personality in it to show readers they're in for an exciting read. 

For example, if you’re writing about happy hormones, here’s what a good and bad lede looks like:

❌ Bad:

Happy hormones are known to boost the happiness levels in your body by creating positive feelings.

✅ Good:

Ever wondered why cat videos make you instantly happy, and ice creams give you an extra dose of energy? It's all about how happy hormones control our brain chemistry.

3. “Imagine this”

Opening your essay with "Imagine this" used to be an interesting way to put your readers in a scenario and set the context for your essay. But now, it's far too cliched and just another lazy attempt to write an essay hook. 

You can create a relatable scenario for users without asking them to imagine or picture it. Use the descriptive hook format with an interesting choice of words to convey the same ideas more creatively.

For example, if you’re writing an essay on preparing for higher studies abroad, here’s what a good and bad lede looks like:

❌ Bad:

Imagine this: You’ve been applying to multiple universities, writing SOPs, and preparing for exams without guidance. Everything can go south any minute. 

✅ Good:

College application season is officially here. But with each passing day, you’re under more and more stress to apply to your chosen colleges and tick all the items off your list.

‍Our Go-To Trick for Writing Catchy Hooks

This opening statement can make or break your entire essay. While I’ve broken down my best tips to create the best essay hooks, here’s a surefire way to write compelling openings:

Go through your notes and either outline your essay or write the whole thing. This way, you’ll know the central thread (or throughline) that runs throughout your piece. 

Once your essay or outline is complete, go back through and identify a particularly compelling fact, claim, or example that relates to that central thread.

‍Write up that fact, claim, or example as the hook for your essay using any of the methods we’ve covered. Then revise or write your essay so the hook leads smoothly into the rest of the piece and you don’t repeat that information elsewhere.

Does your hook spark curiosity in you? 

Did that fact surprise you in the research stage? 

Chances are, your readers will have the same reaction.

And that’s exactly what you want.