Quick Tip #10: The art of the “hook”

Here’s a question: would you rather read a biographical essay about Shakespeare that started like this:

This paper will be about Shakespeare, a dramatist and poet who is very famous in England and around the world. He was baptized on April 26, 1564 in a small town called Stratford-upon-Avon. […]

or, like this?

“To be or not to be, that is the question” is likely one of the most recognized phrases in the English language.  This famous line is from the play Hamlet and is just one of the dramatist and poet William Shakespeare’s many works that have earned him the reputation as the world’s greatest writer in the English language.

bloggingshakeapeare.com (stamps celebrating 50 years of the Royal Shakespeare Company)

Most people would probably pick the second option.  Why?  These sentences serve as a hook, or an “attention-grabber” for the readers.   As in any writing assignment, whether for an academic paper or a story, a writer’s goal should always be to keep your audience engaged. Using an interesting hook helps start your relationship with your reader off on the right foot!

There are lots of ways to write a hook – luckily, George Brown College offers a few specific categories to help you get started. Feeling inspired yet? Another way to learn how to start papers with an engaging tone is to look at how the “pros” do it — here are some of the best opening lines of novels according to the American Book Review. Of course, you may not be appropriate to start every paper with a line as striking as Thomas Pynchon’s “A screaming comes across the sky” but training yourself to pay attention to opening lines in anything you read – from books to articles to blogs – can help you come up your own style of hooks.

So, to quote another play of Shakespeare (Much Ado about Nothing), “Have patience and endure!”

pinterest.com (Joseph Fiennes in the film Shakespeare in Love)



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