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Tips for Writing a Hook: Start at the End of Your Piece

Writing a hook – your attention-getting introduction – starts by knowing the end of your piece.

Which may come as a surprise, since your hook is the first sentence or two to your article, blog post, essay, marketing copy, short story, letter, web page, or nearly any other written work. You might also call it your “hook sentence.”

Just as it is the hook that snags the fish, the hook sentence catches the reader’s interest so that he keeps reading.

Step #1: Identify the Takeaway

Start writing a hook by asking yourself this question: what is to be your reader’s takeaway? It could be a feeling you want her to experience, knowledge you want her to have, or an action you equip her to take.

  • I want my reader to feel …
  • I want my reader to know …
  • I want my reader be able to …

For example …

  • I want my reader to feel more confident about writing a hook 
  • I want my reader to know what a hook sentence is
  • I want my reader to have steps to follow to be able to write a hook

Step #2: Identify Your Reader

Tips for writing a hook with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter. #WritingTips

Just as a fisherman uses certain hooks for freshwater fish and other hooks for saltwater fish, it’s important to know what kind of fish you’re “fishing for” – who your reader is. 

So working backwards, once you’ve identified your reader’s takeaway, you then need to identify your reader. But tread a bit carefully here and don’t get tripped up by appearances.

A 17-year-old student who is writing a college entrance essay is different than a 38-year-old stay-at-home mommy blogger – who is a different from a mid-life career changer.

But age and life stage aside, they are all writers. They all want and need to know how to write a compelling hook for a piece.  

The 17-year-old needs to know how to write an opening hook for his college essay in order to get and keep the admission officer’s attention. The blogger needs to know how to hook readers so she can build her platform. The career-changer needs a hook for his job application cover letters so that a prospective employer will study his resume and call him for an interview.

Identify your readers not necessarily by demographics, but by what’s in it for them if they read your piece. 

Step #3: Identify the Twist

Working backwards even further – you’ve identified your piece’s takeaway and you’ve identified your readers – now all that’s left to do is to choose a type of hook.

While there’s not a single “perfect hook,” all good hooks have one thing in common: they offer a takeaway for your reader, but with a twist. That twist gets her attention. It keeps her reading. Writing a hook always includes this element of unpredictability.

The types of hooks are nearly limitless and can be…

  • A question
  • A mystery to be solved 
  • A descriptive scene 
  • A provocative quote
  • An interesting anecdote – either a personal story or a story from another person’s life
  • An interesting fact 
  • A surprising statistic
  • A myth or misconception and its contrasting truth
  • A compelling piece of news
  • A conflict or irony

Try out several different kinds of hooks. Find an unexpected or unusual approach that arouses curiosity and entices the reader to want to know more.

Which you’ll notice is what I did here. I didn’t start out with a formula for writing the beginning of a piece. I took you to the end and showed you how to work backwards. A bit of an ironic surprise, wouldn’t you say?

And that’s how you got hooked into reading this piece in the first place.

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