Writing an Introduction: The Hook

29 Oct

Once you’ve completed the bulk of your essay, it’s time to tackle the introduction and the conclusion. These are the two parts of the essay that students tell me they have the toughest time with so I’m  going to spend some time breaking down each one into their specific parts.

What is the point? Why do we need to have an introduction?

Many students have asked me these questions (or some form of them) over the years and the answer is simple: the introduction provides a map of your entire essay. We can’t get to our destination (the conclusion) without knowing which roads to take (body paragraphs).

Even though the introduction will likely be the smallest paragraph (not a hard & fast rule so don’t quote me), it is comprised of several parts. Today’s post will be dedicated to the hook.


The hook is a sentence or two that’s going to draw your readers in and make them want to keep reading.

Imagine if Fahrenheit 451 started off with something like “It’s the future and books are outlawed and sometimes get burned?” Yikes, that’s terrible!

“It was a pleasure to burn” is simple yet complex and sets the stage for the entire novel. A perfect hook.

Because the hook does provide a framework of sorts, it’s best to wait until you’re done (or close to done) with your paper before writing your hook.

Let’s start with some simple DONT’S

– Don’t use a definition. I know it can be tempting to start off an essay with “Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression,disease, and overcrowding or book-burning as in Fahrenheit 451.” But really don’t. It’s been done & done again and while a definition does help provide a framework, a definition is not going to sound like you because, well, it isn’t.

– Don’t be obscure. Yes, your teacher will know that you’re writing about Fahrenheit 451 but you’ll still want to be clear, even in your hook. Stay away from sentences like “The big plot point is that Montag changes his mind about books.” Yawn, right? Plus for someone that’s never read the novel, this sentence will make absolutely zero sense.

– Don’t be obvious. On the flip side of the above is being too obvious. Ignore the want to write something like “The novel is about book burning and the effect of that on society.” While (kinda sorta but not really) correct, obvious sentences are boring and simplistic.

– Don’t go back in time. Stay within the parameters of your topic as much as possible. Offering up sentences like “When Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, he couldn’t have imagined that a society may consider burning books.” It can be an easy go-to to reach back in time in an attempt to connect your argument to a larger concept but be careful in doing so; you will always want to remain relevant to your topic.

Those are the basic don’ts though the list can certainly be expanded. Do you have any other don’ts when it comes to writing hooks?

Now that you know what to avoid, let’s work on…


Write down the answers to these questions:

1) What is the most interesting thing about your paper?

2) What did you learn about the subject that you didn’t know before writing this essay?

3) Did you discover anything shocking or controversial in your analysis of the subject?

If you don’t yet see a hook (or an idea for a hook) emerging, then ask someone else to read your paper and have them answer these questions.

Once you’ve distilled your paper down to the most interesting elements, you now just need to decide how to craft it. Check out the possible ideas here or here.


3 Responses to “Writing an Introduction: The Hook”


  1. Writing an Introduction: The Map « LHS Writing Center - October 31, 2012

    […] introduction is essentially the map for your entire essay but since the hook and the thesis statement have a unique role to play, the bulk of your introduction will function as […]

  2. An Essay Writing Tool « LHS Writing Center - November 1, 2012

    […] of an essay – the introduction and the conclusion. For the introduction, you’ve got the hook and the map. The conclusion posts will come next […]

  3. Writing an Introduction: The Hook, Part 2 « LHS Writing Center - November 16, 2012

    […] are any number of ways to write a hook & if you keep pushing yourself with the questions from this post, you’ll undoubtedly find […]

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