Tag Archives: essay introduction hooks

Use dialog to begin sentences and paragraphs in order to add variety and life to writing

Author's Quote on adding dialogueHave you ever turned the page of a novel and come to long paragraphs of description or exposition?  And then the corner of your eye sees far down the next page a section of dialog?  What do you do?  Do you read the long paragraphs or do you jump to the dialog with its short sentences and friendly white space?

If you are like most people, you beeline to the dialog.

Dialog makes writing sparkle.  Once I read a novel in which there was no dialog, none whatsoever.  Over and over I wanted to quit.  This novel taught me the power of dialog in writing.

Children read chapter books like Junie B. Jones that are full of dialog, but children rarely think of adding dialog themselves.  However, once they add dialog they keep adding it, and their writing improves tremendously.

Why?  One of the easiest ways to get personality into writing is to introduce a character—even if it is the writer herself—whose unique way of thinking and saying attracts readers.  Charles Dickens was a master of this.  But so are some of my students.

dialog example

Notice how a third grade student uses dialog to show his personality and to hook the reader.

Adding dialog is like adding powerful verbs.  It has the same effect.

Sometimes when I read a student’s writing, I suggest, “This would be a good place for dialog.”  Often the student has people talking anyway, but using indirect speech.  I show the student how to turn the speech into direct quotes, and how to start a new paragraph when a different person speaks.

Dialog can also be a great hook in the introduction of an essay, providing that the person speaking says something worth hearing.

One caveat:  Sometimes, once students learn the power of dialog, they want to write only dialog, leaving out any sense of setting or nonverbal action.  In these cases the writing is confusing.  Help the student to see that some description of place, time and the emotional reactions of the people talking and listening are important for a well-rounded essay.

Next we’ll look at sentence types and how they impact writing.

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?”


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.


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?


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.