Anyone who's ever been a student will agree that writing an essay is not easy. In fact, it seems to be quite a challenging task: finding proper ideas, arranging the text according to the rules, keeping the style consistent throughout the entire work. Let us assume that you've composed a great essay but when you give it to others for editing, they literally force themselves to read till the end. Not because you lack writing skills, but because your essay is...simply boring. In short, readers don't enjoy following the flow of your thoughts. Why does it happen? Here comes an explanation.
The 20 seconds rule
The reader subconsciously estimates the value of the text during the first 20 seconds of reading it. Obviously, it is impossible to get all the worthy ideas from the text in 20 seconds, but that's how much time it takes to make your impression and decide whether you want to keep on reading or not. Sure, your college professor MUST read your essay until the end, but when it comes to online audience, you have to fight for their attention. What you need is a "hook" to grab the interest of those to whom your essay is addressed. Sounds like taking part in a competition, perhaps, but it is exactly what you should be best at in order for your works to get noticed and appreciated.
What's a hook in writing?
A hook is not merely a metaphor. Actually, this widely used tool was first mentioned by Aristotle in the context of drama. Hooks were used to involve spectators into the action, make them captivated by whatever happens on stage. Such technique can be applied to writing as well. So, here comes the hook definition in literature: a hook is a literary device in an opening sentence (-s) used in order to attract a reader's attention. That is to say, you should offer a striking beginning to motivate your readers and encourage further reading. Offer the intriguing or mysterious setting, create the right mood, allude to the theme or conflict, surprise the reader with casting him/her into the middle of an action. This is one of the features that literature and movies have in common: both of them have to capture and keep attention, both need a proper hook.
What is a hook in an essay?
As you know, each kind of essay starts with the introduction presenting a topic and posing a statement. However, the statement should be presented in a logical manner; that is why it is usually preceded by a few generalized sentences. These sentences are your hook. A pitfall here is that you may ponder on the hook words for essays for hours while generating the essay body in your mind. Therefore, get down to business: write the essay body first and then work on the hook. Having the framework in front of you eases the construction of the lacking essay parts. That is an effective "recipe" for many writers.
Not only the first sentences but also the last ones may serve as a hook for your essay. Introduce the closing hooks for essays through posing a controversial or tricky question, intriguing with unusual outlook, presenting the generally known facts as brand new ones. In short, get your audience really interested. A conclusion usually echoes the intro part, so if your essay is framed by hooks, you hit the target.
How to write a hook?
Well, knowing how to use essay hooks is undoubtedly a must for every writer. Below there are some tips that will help you write effective hooks for all essay types. Consider different kinds of hooks and choose the optimal one for writing either an introduction or a conclusion. Since it's the introduction that goes first, let us start off with hook introduction examples.
Quote of a well-known person
Indicating the author is obligatory. Quoting the acknowledged personality not only grabs attention immediately but also brings a sense of credibility to your writing. Check out the following quotes, and you will see that they are all well-suited to be followed by a thesis:
- "Never say more than is necessary." ― Richard Brinsley Sheridan;
- "Be a worthy worker and work will come." ― Amit Kalantri;
- "Great losses are great lessons." ― Amit Kalantri;
- "The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today." ― H. Jackson Brown;
- "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." ― Benjamin Franklin;
- "Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship." ― Buddha.
Click on the links below to find plenty of wise sayings worth being used as hook sentences for essays:
2. A piece of advice:
- "Never reply when you are angry. Never make a promise when you are happy. Never make a decision when you are sad";
- "When you say yes to others make sure you are not saying no to yourself." ― Paulo Coehlo;
- "Don't ever dumb yourself down just to make someone else feel comfortable";
- "Best advice in two lines: Silence is the best answer for all questions. Smiling is the best reaction in all situations";
- "Listen to advice from people who have been there and done that. It is so hard to believe that when you are young, but parents, mentors, teachers, they can all be so valuable when it comes to advice";
3. Contradictory statement:
- "The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves." ― Oscar Wilde;
- "Everybody sets out to do something, and everybody does something, but no one does what he sets out to do." ― George A. Moore;
- "I believe in nothing, everything is sacred. I believe in everything, nothing is sacred." ― Tom Robbins;
4. Surprising and interesting fact:
- "Bill Gates' first business was Traf-O-Data, a company involved in producing machines that recorded the number of cars passing a given point on a road"
- "Ketchup was being sold in the 1830s as medicine";
- "Celery has negative calories: it takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with. It's the same with apples";
- "If you were to remove all of the empty space from the atoms that make up every human on earth, the entire world population could fit into an apple."
5. Rhetorical question:
- Why bother about...?
- What if...?
- How come...?
- What does it mean to...?
- What should be done if...?
6. Humorous statement:
- "Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive." ― Elbert Hubbard;
- "There are only three things women need in life: food, water, and compliments." ― Chris Rock;
- "They say marriages are made in Heaven. But so is thunder and lightning." ― Clint Eastwood;
- "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." ― Charles Dudley Warner;
- "Two wrongs don't make a right, but they make a good excuse." ― Thomas Szasz.
7. Describing the setting
Choose the book or story your essay will be based on and use its first lines in your introduction. It should set the mood, introduce characters, hint towards the historical or cultural background. Such hooks to start an essay take the reader straightforwardly into the action, without long preambles.
- "The number of worldwide social media users is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2018";
- "70% of the U.S. population has at least one social networking profile";
- "100 million Internet users watch online video each day";
- "Only 12% of businesses feel that they are using social media effectively, and yet approximately 60% of businesses have their profiles on various social media channels".
9. Unusual comparison
- "Life is like a bar of soap, once you think you've got a hold of it, it slips away";
- "Life is like a 1,000-page book. You want to quit halfway through, but then you realize you have a lot left to look forward to";
- "Life is like a party. You invite a lot of people; some go, some join you, some laugh with you, some didn't come. But in the end, after the fun, there would be a few who would clean up the mess with you. And most of the time, those were the uninvited ones".
Closing hooks for essays: really needed?
The hook examples listed above may serve as hooks for a conclusion as well. Don't underestimate the importance of the concluding part of your essay: it should not be just a summary of each body paragraph. It's like putting a cherry on top of the cake: conclusion has to leave your audience satisfied, but at the same time intrigue them to investigate the topic more. Rewriting the thesis doesn't fit: better do it in an interesting, innovative way. Try to step into your potential readers' shoes and read your essay again. Now, what questions are left unanswered? Write them down as rhetorical ones. What saying comes to your mind after reading an essay? Include it in your conclusion in the shape of a quote. Or just offer a humorous, sarcastic idea. Get your audience hooked for the second time while reading your essay.
Well, confess: having read all the tips, do you feel inspired, especially now that you know exactly how to begin an essay and finish it? Do not waste time then, get down to writing!
So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
- Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes.
- Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise ofdehumanization"; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
- Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure, by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University