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Tips on the Hook Statement in Persuasive Writing

by Michael Stratford

The "hook" statement in persuasive writing is the phrase that grabs your readers and keeps them engaged in the argument you present. There are a number of hooks you can use in persuasive essays; all are engaging, and all are attention-getting. However, before selecting one, you should carefully consider the audience you want to persuade.

The Serious Hook: Your Words

The audience you are addressing decides in large part what kind of hook you will use to grab attention. It's important that the tones of your hook and essay match, and that your hook supports your main argument. With a persuasive piece that addresses a serious problem, with no room for light humor, the hook should be a startling fact or statistic: "Twenty innocent children died in the horrific killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and yet not one new gun control law has been enacted as yet." Your sober, serious topic is clear and inescapable.

The Serious Hook: Another's Words

If your audience will respond to a person of authority, a serious quote or statement from another is an excellent hook if it connects well to your persuasive thesis. For example, you might begin, "Derek Bok once said, 'If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.'" If you follow this quote with a thesis that explores the deplorable physical state of schools nationwide, and you offer solutions to the problem, your readers are likely to be hooked. You have presented them with a simple formula -- education versus ignorance -- that will be easy for a wide range of audiences to understand.

Lighter Hooks

An excellent all-purpose hook, particularly if you're not sure of your audience, is an engaging question: "If your computer were permanently shut off tomorrow, would you do something else with your life or just stare at the screen?" Your essay's thesis can then discuss excessive Internet use in people's lives. Hyperbole -- that is, exaggeration -- works well as a hook too: "Do you hear the scraping, the groaning, the sounds of stumbling hooves, the moos and bleats? It's our student body, heading to a too-short, too-crowded lunch." Now your essay can discuss school lunch problems.

Your Introduction

The use of a hook simplifies the construction of your introductory paragraph. The hook immediately sets the tone of the essay and points the way to the problem your essay will address. Your thesis should follow in the next sentence if possible. This two-sentence opener will be brief and engaging, and it will draw the reader into the body of your essay, your argument.

About the Author

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.

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