A good opening line hooks your attention by doing one of seven things brilliantly.
Its job is to make you read this second sentence, which has the singular task of propelling your eyes towards the third sentence. This one.
Go back and read the first line of this article again. It uses ‘Opening Line Strategy #3’…
Opening Line Strategy #3
This strategy deploys an element of ‘curiosity’ to encourage you to read further. Curiosity is a potent editorial weapon that can be used to great effect in headlines and sub-headings.
In an ideal world, this approach should leave you wanting to know more. Or it should create a question that can only be answered by reading on. Here, the question the first sentence should intrigue you with is: “what are the seven things that opening lines do brilliantly?”
Here’s another curious example from The Atlantic:
You may not believe me, but I have news about global warming: Good news, and better news.
And another from The Guardian newspaper:
About a month ago, to my embarrassment, I learned I’d been tying my shoelaces wrongly my whole life.
Both lines leave you asking questions. Good and better news about global warming, you say? Great! What is it? Am I tying my shoelaces incorrectly? Surely there’s only one way to tie shoelaces?
Opening Line Strategy #3 is also used to great effect to kick off John Scalzi’s sci-fi novel Old Man’s War, where he writes:
I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.
Curiosity is just one of seven different approaches that you can use to increase the eyeball-pulling power of your article’s first line. As for the others, let’s start at the beginning…
Opening Line Strategy #1
A first line can simply set up the line that follows it. Or the one after that. You can use it to create expectation or intrigue, which following lines can elaborate on or contrast.
Here’s an example from Wired.com:
In the hype tsunami prior to Facebook’s May IPO, I doubt anyone wrote these words: “Instead of social media, you should invest in macaroni and cheese.” As it turns out, that’s exactly what you should have done.
And take a look at this one from Slate.com:
The dinosaurs of our childhood aren’t around anymore. The sluggish, swamp-bound pea-brains that haunted museum halls and trundled through picture books have been eviscerated by agile, hot-blooded, and, often, feathery dinosaurs that more accurately reflect what Tyrannosaurus rex and kin were actually like.
Opening Line Strategy #2
Asking a question of your reader is another smart way to keep them squarely focused on your content. Like this example from one of our own posts:
Did you know that there are 7 writing mistakes that a spell checker won’t spot?
Opening Line Strategy #4
By posing a question in Opening Line Strategy #2, you’re setting up an expectation that the second sentence will start to answer it. Showing some empathy towards a common problem can also be a winning opener.
Here’s a good example of a question that does exactly that from writetodone.com:
Have you ever thought you could be a great writer… if only you had the time?
This one from Firepole Marketing also hopes to tap into reader discontent, suggesting that ‘hey, we’ve all been there…':
We’ve all struggled to increase traffic, and every wannabe guru has a bag of tricks they’re eager to sell you.
Opening Line Strategy #5
An effective way to hold a reader’s attention is to disrupt their expectations, surprise them or swerve away from what is generally considered to be the ‘norm’.
Take this first sentence from George Orwell’s classic novel 1984:
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
This opener from The Atlantic also promises to reveal information that you might not be aware of.
Behind every Google Map, there is a much more complex map that’s the key to your queries but hidden from your view.
Opening Line Strategy #6
If you’re struggling for an opening sentence or can’t think of how to start an article, try using a quote or an interesting statistic. Using information from an external source can often help you to catch the eye and hold a reader’s attention.
Check out this opening line from Fast Company:
Nearly 66% of companies on the Fortune 100 list in 1990 are not on the list some twenty-odd years later.
Opening Line Strategy #7
This last strategy is the simplest of the bunch. It requires little thought and just a little bit of bravery. Nevertheless, it can be a surprisingly effective tactic.
It is simply this: try deleting your first paragraph.
If you haven’t consciously optimized your opening line, there’s a good chance that deleting it (and your first paragraph) will make your article better. Why? Because intro paragraphs often ramble and often don’t get to the point quickly enough.
There are occasions when this approach is deliberate. The so-called ‘delayed intro’ is a tactic that you’ll often see in magazine or newspaper features. The writer either goes off on a loosely connected tangent before looping back to relevancy or uses the intro paragraph(s) to set the scene.
This works well in newspapers and magazines, where longer form writing is consumed in a linear way. But on the web, readers tend to skip and scan. If they’re not hooked by the content of your first paragraph, then they could abandon your content before they reach the end.
Deleting your first paragraph can be painful. But it’s often the most effective way to avoid unnecessary padding. Try it. This strategy won’t work for every article or blog post. But it might just give your content a little more ‘kerpow’ up-front.
A great first line doesn’t matter if…
There you have it. Seven ways to start an article with a killer opening line. If I’ve missed any, feel free to point them out in the comments section below.
As a general rule, your first line is the next most important bit of writing after your headline. Your second line is the next most important bit of writing after your first line. And so on. If you see any good lines, swipe them. Add them to a text file so you can use them as inspiration next time or as a sledgehammer to break through writer’s block.
Of course, there will hopefully come a time where none of these strategies will matter. When you’ve built up a loyal audience for your content, they will typically come back for WHAT you say, rather than HOW you say it.
But until then, try an Opening Line Strategy…
Main image by UNE Photos
Tagged as: article writing, how to start an article, marginal gains, opening lines, write faster
When your English language professor requires to write an essay, how do you begin your writing? Do you use any good hooks in the introductory paragraphs to grab readers' attention? Probably, you have discovered a secret, unique great hook which helps your paper stand out from other works. Different types of essay hooks exist. High school and college students along with creative writers use them to grab their readers' attention.
WHAT DO WE DEFINE AN ESSAY HOOK?
Before you learn how to write a good hook, you must learn what it is. A hook is an interesting and catchy sentence from the introduction of your high school or college essay which motivates people to read your work. Although it is a rather small element, a perfect hook is both informative and engaging. It has a deep meaning and helps a writer introduce his or her main idea.
GET HELP WITH YOUR ESSAY HOOK FROM US
TIPS ON FINDING THE BEST HOOK
We decided to analyze some examples of essay openings to provide you with an idea of how effective hooks look like. First, we would like to discuss a number of important ideas you should keep in mind before you write a hook.
A common mistake is that students give a great starter...and forget that it's a part of a paper. Don't jump to discussing your paper topic without demonstrating a clear bonding between the opening lines and the rest of the paper. Words are powerful; yet, if they aren't related to your work, they can't support your argument.
Tone and style of your work mean everything. If you are working on a research paper in physics to offer it to a scientific journal, it is better not to start with a personal childhood story. The hook should be strong and appropriate. Yet, if you are writing for a magazine which is less official, then the childhood story will sound quite natural. Evaluate the situation first!
Consider your target audience. Obviously, you shouldn't write an essay for professionals in biology using teenage language. They understand the text, but they are unlikely to get the purpose of your writing.
These strategies to developing good hooks are the key because every author's main purpose is to make readers understand his or her opinion and enjoy the overall reading.
HOOKS TO USE IN ESSAYS
Mind where the good hooks come from. You might want to type in a curious fact on the topic which is unknown to most of the people. Find different facts in various sources such as:
- Textbooks and books
- Academic and scientific journals
- Official published reports
- Documentaries and films
Remember that the more recent and credible source you use, the more trustworthy your essay's hook sounds.
To help you better understand how hook sentences function in writing, we are going to discuss several really nice articles written by professional writers and journalists. We look only at the intros of our examples and describe the kind of hooks found in each one.
KEEP THEM READING BY STARTING WITH AN INTERESTING FACT
The first good example of high knowledge is the quote taken as a hook from the credible online resources that publish up-to-date information on the most critical and discussed topics within society. People find it intriguing that:
"Over 36% of mobile subscribers use iPhones or iPads to read email, and 34% of subscribers only use mobile devices to read emails."(Informz)
Such statistics help perspective business people to launch their own mobile solutions in the upcoming year. Not all teachers and professors support the active usage of internet/digital resources, so you must specify whether such way to introduce your hook and the first paragraph is OK. Then, you move to the discussion on why mobile applications are perspective products/business ideas.
"There are two distinct traditions in the literature regarding the proper analysis of predicate noun and adjective constructions..."
(John Bowers, The Syntax of Predication)
In the given example we have an official, scientific paper which cannot be humorous or start with a creative trope. On the contrary, this intro is rather straightforward. And, nevertheless, it contains a nice hook - a conflict. 'Two distinct traditions' means that we will see how the author either supports one of them or introduces the third solution to the existing problem. Presenting conflicting ideas is always an excellent way to start.
ANECDOTE OR A JOKE WOULD BE HELPFUL
ESL/EFL classroom offers many anecdotes on various subjects to help students cover any topic with a share of humor. The examples of essay hooks below catch an eye of the reader by making him laugh.
"A family of mice were surprised by a big cat. Father Mouse jumped and said, "Bow-wow!" The cat ran away. "What was that, Father?" asked Baby Mouse. "Well, son, that's why it's important to learn a second language."
Isn't it a great idea to start your paper on the importance of learning a secondary language? Mind that each country has its specific humor and forbidden jokes. Choose the hook sentences wisely!
POSING QUESTIONS IN THE BEGINNING
You may play with facts and statistics to combine them into the question. You may use rhetorical question too. It is a great way to start your writing and give an overall picture of what you'll be talking about. Make sure to provide an answer throughout your text or at the end.
"Have you ever thought how many people die of pneumonia every day in the United States?"
CATCH EXCELLENT ESSAY HOOK FROM EXPERT WRITER
HOW TO WRITE A HOOK OF THE MIXED TYPE
Here we go with the mixed example:
"As children's culture arose in the 1740s, the juvenile market was suddenly awash in age-appropriate clothing, toys, and reading material..."
(Megan A. Norcia, Puzzling Empire: Early Puzzles and Dissected Maps as Imperial Heuristics)
This beginning is a good example of how a fact can be used in an intro. Readers tend to pay attention to those works which provide them with new information, and starting with a date and an interesting fact is a brilliant hooking idea.
"Why some people choke and others panic."
(Malcolm Gladwell, The Art of Failure)
We definitely love this intro. Short, clear, and very powerful. Although there is no question mark at the end, the intro above belongs to the category of 'posing a question.' We mean that the author opened the essay with a statement which promises the answer if we keep reading. We know the article is on the failure and the ways people react to it. The rhetorical question-like intro is truly hooking because the majority of readers will want to know why some people choke and other people panic.
A fact or question works well with the analysis paper. Find out how to write an analysis essay which deserves A+.
A LITERARY QUOTE AS THE WAY TO EXPRESS YOURSELF
Another great essay hook might be an original philosophical or social phrase to grab the attention. Think of any sentence or paragraph which can force your readers to think. Try to help arise necessary questions and social problems by your speech.
"Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity."
(Joan Didion, After Life)
If the style of writing allows you to be creative, look for an unusual, original way to express the main theme of your paper with the help of such good hooks for essays. Here, Joan Didion starts with her own poem which 'tunes' readers and let them know in advance what the whole text is about.
Mind the way you format quotes depends on different academic writing styles.
SET A SCENE
Try to memorize an example of a very brief story from famous people to capture the attention of your reader. Such essay's hook points to the importance of the topic or question with the help of a real-life example. The best examples include recalling the story of Helen Keller who managed to write beautiful books being blinded from her birth. You may use a story of some celebrity like Bon Jovi to stress the importance of helping disabled people financially and morally by attending them in the hospitals. When you write an essay, you are not supposed to recall only examples from your life. You are encouraged to share stories of people who figure as your role models. They don't have to be very famous, but their stories should serve as the perfect essay hook related to your chosen topic.
"After smiling brilliantly for nearly four decades, I now find myself trying to quit. Or, at the very least, seeking to lower a wattage a bit."
(Amy Cunnigham, Why Women Smile)
Reader deals with a perfect personal story. Readers want to know more about each story's main character because they try to find new emotions and new knowledge. Do you know why she has no intention to smile anymore? Is it hooking enough? We think so. Such beginnings are always attention grabbing and exciting.
In case you write an essay on such trait as jealousy, you may quote a well-known book by Shakespeare, "Othello," which is primarily focused on the problems caused by this feeling. Show how Othello is afraid of losing Desdemona, his wife, because of the color of his skin, religion, and other stereotypes.
I crave fit disposition for my wife.
Due reference of place and exhibition
With such accommodation and besort
As levels with her breeding"(Act1.Scene 3)
In Act 2, Scene 1, we discover more about the topic of jealousy from the character of Iago who has an evil mind due to his friend's Othello's success.
QUOTES FROM FAMOUS PEOPLE
Actually, many of the essay hook examples quoted above can be put into this category. However, there are phrases well-known by the entire world. Once something critical happens, famous people always have their point of view. They share it with the society via mass media. It is your chance to find another great essay hook. The first example appears below:
"The problem with environmentalists, Lynn Margulis used to say, is that they think conservation has something to do with biological reality."
(Charles C. Mann, State of the Species)
Another clever way to hook people is to use quotes from famous people. With a quote, your writing makes a certain statement and helps you establish your authority as a writer. You demonstrate your connection with the community and show great interest in the field history and respect towards people who have made a large contribution to its development.
GOOD HOOKS FOR ESSAYS IN THE SHAPE OF SIMILE OR METAPHOR
You should practice using metaphors and similes as the way to start your essay with an interesting hook. Watch out - many people do not tend to get the meaning of metaphors and similes from the first time, so it is better to add a description or explanation of what it means. Otherwise, you risk losing your audience instead of grabbing its attention. A good metaphor helps enrich one's speech and make the writing more powerful in terms of words.
As written by Dan Wakefield,
"I feel as much of a stud as... I can't come up with a metaphor. That's how lacking in studliness I am."
A simile is a literary tool often used as an essay hook. It also shows writer's ability to express feelings and ideas in many different, original ways rather than being straightforward all the time. To understand similes better, a student has to read a lot of plays, poems, song lyrics, and take part in everyday conversations.
The several examples below are helpful when writing your essay hook:
- "as cute as a puppy" (contrasting something to the adorableness of a puppy)
- "as busy as a bee" (describing very industrious people)
- "as snug as a bug in a rug" (meaning tucked up tight)
OTHER GREAT WAYS TO START YOUR SENTENCE
There are other ways to begin you writing such as stating a thesis and using statistics and numbers. You are the one to decide which option is the most effective. Don't forget to take the preparatory steps and figure out which kind of hook is the most beneficial.
Although we have added some great sentences which you can use as a topic hook, it is still not easy to grab attention to your story from the first essay's line. Thus, we would like you to remember there is an immediate solution to any academic writing problem in the shape of our website with services for high school, college, and university students. When you don't have time to type the whole paper or think of the relevant anecdote or scene to begin with, our writing services are always ready to help with your learning process. Order a custom essay or research paper with the most effective hooks you've ever seen!
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