Writing an introduction for any paper can be the most difficult part of the assignment. In fact, it’s a task that’s best saved for last. Web content writers often don’t create a home page until the rest of the site’s copy is in place.
But eventually, you’ll have to write an introduction for your essay. How can you make it interesting? Use the same techniques that public speakers use to open a presentation. These seven tips tell you how to do create amazing essay hooks.
If you’re writing a factual essay and not a personal opinion or descriptive piece, math is a great hook. A statistic shows that you’ve done your research and know your stuff. Moreover, a significant stat can influence your audience.
EXAMPLE: “About 50 percent of Europeans speak English, while only 20 percent of Americans speak a second language.”*
Simply start by posing the question or questions that you answer in your essay. Then explain how you will answer those questions. Be sure your questions are controversial or otherwise captivating.
EXAMPLE: “Is religion really dead? Is there a place for spiritual diversity in modern society, or do disparate beliefs disrupt the potential to achieve global harmony?”
You don’t have to tell a joke per se, but a tasteful funny line is sure to grab most readers. Humor won’t be appropriate for every essay topic, but it works well for more personal subject matter and lighter material.
EXAMPLE: “I never knew my grandparents’ house number. Anybody could find the place by driving down Myrtle Street and looking for the yard with the tallest grass.”
People love quotations because they say so much in so few words. In our super-busy, hyperactive, attention-deficient world, plain language and short sentences win out. A well-chosen quote can both set the stage for your essay and summarize it.
EXAMPLE: “‘I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.’ This wise observation by Xenocrates might have changed the course of Elia Kazan’s life—and Hollywood history.”
You’re probably wondering how you can squeeze a story into the first paragraph of your essay. The trick is to keep it short. Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a story in six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” You might not be Hemingway, but you can certainly tell an intriguing anecdote in two or three sentences.
EXAMPLE: “My parents died in a car accident when I was two years old. The only survivor of that wreck, I entered the foster care system. The third couple I stayed with became the family I know today.”
This type of hook is best for an essay about said book, play, or movie. Different from a quotation from a celebrated figure, a quote from literature, theater, or film immediately puts the reader in mind of the source. From there, you can segue into your thesis.
EXAMPLE: “‘It was a dark and stormy night.’ This opening line from the classic novel ‘Shipyards and Sauerkraut’ sets the tone for the whole book. While many people classify this story as a comedy, I argue that it is in fact a tragedy with comedic overtones.”**
Any sentence that leaves the audience confused or hanging is a good opener. People will stay tuned to listen to your explanation or resolution.
EXAMPLE: “Every ladies’ man knows that the library is 10 times better than a bar for finding dates.”
Writing an attention-grabbing essay hook isn’t as hard as it might seem. All you have to do is outline your paper, compose the body, add your conclusion, and then pick one of these seven techniques to build your introduction around. You’ll be on your way to a winning essay.
*This is a fabricated statistic.
**”Shipyards and Sauerkraut” is not a real novel … as of this writing.