Using a Hook

WHAT IS A HOOK?
A hook is a method that expert writers use to grab their reader’s attention much like a hook with bait attracts fish.

ARE ALL HOOKS HELPFUL?
No. Some hooks have been used so much that they have outlived their usefulness. Avoid the following overused hooks.

  • Dictionary definition (e.g. Webster’s defines “friendship” as…)
  • Rhetorical questions (e.g. Do you think that homework is always a good thing?)

WHAT DOES A HOOK LOOK LIKE?
A hook is anything that grabs your reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. Here are some different types of hooks with accompanying examples.

INTERESTING STATISTIC: A statistic is a factual number such as a percentage, a dollar amount, or any other count. A statistic would be easy to include since you most likely have numbers about arrests, driving accidents, or money spent in your notes.

  • Example: According to a recent poll, 87% of Americans believe there is a God. It makes you wonder how this widespread belief affects how we make laws in the U.S.


FAMOUS OR CONTROVERSIAL QUOTATION:
A quotation should only be used if it is interesting. Don’t quote anyone if his/her words aren’t important in some way.

  • Example: Thomas Jefferson once said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”. As one of the Founding Fathers of this nation, Jefferson symbolizes how America was built on the backbone of a solid work ethic.

STARTLING FACT: A startling fact hooks your reader in a very similar manner to an interesting statistic. Except, instead of using a number, you will surprise your reader with a factual statement.

  • Example: In 2000, Alabama voters finally abolished an active law that was still on the books that prohibited interracial marriage. Even though many people realize that racism is still around but frowned upon, few people know how racism is still officially built into our system of laws and government.

THOUGHT PROVOKING QUESTION: Remember, one of our boring hooks was a rhetorical question (i.e. a question that most people know the answer to already). A thought provoking question is usually a difficult question to answer that still attracts your reader’s attention.

  • Example: When does a friendly flirtation at the office turn into sexual harassment? Many people have pondered this question and tried to find the murky line that separates a bad idea and breaking the law.

ANECDOTE OR RELEVANT STORY: You can tell a short example that connects to your topic in the opening lines. Readers much prefer to read stories than philosophical thoughts or straight up analysis. It doesn’t matter if your anecdote or short story is real or hypothetical; just make sure it connects to your topic and captures your reader’s attention.

  • Example: On a cold Wednesday morning at 3am, a bicyclist was shot by a man in an apparent road rage. He wounded cyclist cried for help. No one answered. Then, he slowly made his way to the nearest door he could find and knocked and knocked, begging for help. No one answered. Before he died, he had knocked on five doors, pleaded with the residents to hear his cries, but no one answered.

SHORT, POWERFUL STATEMENT: Hit your reader hard with a short statement that packs a whallop! Be controversial. Be raw. Be  daring.

  • Example #1: Darwin was wrong.
  • Example #2: Bush was right.
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