What are some types of essay introductions that hook the reader?

Teachers have drummed into students’ heads that essay introductions need hooks. But all too often, the hooks students write wouldn’t snare a minnow. What kinds of hooks work? Let’s take the topic, “When I lost a tooth,” and look at some hooks that would make the reader want to continue reading.

Anecdote: (a story from the news, history, family, or personal experience):

My Grandpa says he doesn’t remember when his first tooth fell out, but he remembers when his last one did. It was after he cracked a walnut with his teeth, and a tooth broke apart. He had to go to Dr. Taylor’s office to have the rest of the tooth pulled out. Grandpa says that was the most expensive walnut he ever ate.

Analogy/comparison: (This introduction hooks better if the two items being compared seem not to be related)

A tooth is like a baby’s diaper. We don’t think much about either of them when they are working fine. But if they are falling out or falling off, that’s all we can think of!

Dialog: (Use quotation marks. Each time a different person talks, start a new paragraph.)

“Hey, Mom, how much did the tooth fairy bring when your teeth fell out?”
“A nickel a tooth.”
“A nickel a tooth! That’s all?”
“That’s all.”
“Didn’t they invent quarters back then?”

Irony/humor:

Every six or seven-year-old kid loses teeth. Why, there must be millions of kids all over the world right now who can’t eat corn on the cob.

Statistics:

When I was in first grade, every single kid lost a tooth, and most of us lost more than one. Billy Ellingham was the champion though. He lost seven teeth that year. I remember because we kept track with a bar graph on the bulletin board.

Startling claim:

Suppose you brush your teeth for a minute in the morning and a minute in the evening every day this year. That’s 730 minutes, or more than 12 hours standing in front of a sink brushing and spitting.

Compelling question:

Did you know that when a shark’ tooth falls out, the shark can grow a new tooth as many times as it needs to?

Generalization:

My Grandma calls my teeth my pearly whites.

Next we’ll look at some of the mechanics of writing a first draft that make revising easier.

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