How To Begin An Essay With An Anecdote

And you have to find perfect hooks for an essay even when you don’t know what to write about.

When you are asked to write an essay, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get to express your own thoughts and creativity. An essay shouldn’t be boring or too formal. As a writer, your first priority is to make sure that you are keeping your audience in mind and writing for them and to them. That means grabbing and keeping their attention so that they want to read every word.

This is exactly why the essay hook exists and is such an important tool.

The use of hooks in writing goes far beyond just essays and college papers. Every writer, copywriter, screenwriter, and storyteller uses this device to draw in readers and keep them hooked. For example, world-famous ad executive, David Ogilvy, relied on a list of 29 “magic words” that he used in titles in order to hook a client’s attention.

College essay hooks can be difficult to generate, especially when you are still working on clarifying what your essay is going to say. So, the very first step in writing a strong essay hook is to do some planning.

  • A literary quote
  • This type of hook is appropriate when you are writing about a particular author, story, literary phenomenon, book, etc. Using a quote will make your essay sound fresh and establish your authority as an author.

    Examples:

    “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” These words of Nick Carraway perfectly describe…”

    “Not all those who wander are lost.” And yes, indeed, every person is so…”

    “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” Agree or not, but these words from The Alchemist determine…”

  • Quotes from Famous People
  • Including a quote from an authoritative and influential person can help support your argument and create an intriguing hook. The key is to make sure that you clearly show how the quote is relevant to your essay.

    Examples:

    “John Wooden once said, ‘Never mistake activity for achievement.'”

    “Learn to laugh” were the first words from my kindergarten teacher after Ralph Thorsen spilled paint on my daffodil picture.

  • Anecdote
  • Don’t be afraid to employ this type of hook. Remember, even if you start with a humorous anecdote, it doesn’t mean that your entire essay has to be funny. A bit of humor can help you grab readers’ attention and spark their interest in the topic.

    Examples:

    “As my cousin and I pedaled our new bikes to the beach, 6 years old, suntanned and young, we met an old, shaggy-haired man weaving unsteadily on a battered old bike.”

    “When I was a young boy, my father worked at a coal mine. For 27 years, he made it his occupation to scrape and claw and grunt his way into the bowels of the earth, searching for fuel. On April 19, 2004, the bowels of the earth clawed back.”

    Keep in mind that most essay assignments will ask you to avoid using the first person. Be sure to check any requirements before using “I” in your writing.

  • Pose a Question
  • Almost nothing can attract interest better than a well-constructed question. Readers will want to continue reading your essay in order to discover the answer. Be sure to avoid simple “Yes” or “No” questions and try to pose questions that ask reader to consider the other side or engage in some critical thinking.

    Examples:

    “What would you do if you could play God for a day? That’s exactly what the leaders of the tiny island nation of Guam tried to answer.”

    “Have you ever wondered, whether Anna Karenina still loved Alexei if she hadn’t decided to commit a suicide?”

  • Set a Scene
  • People respond well to visual cues. Taking the time to set a detailed scene will help your reader have a clear picture in their minds and create an effective hook. You can describe an incident or detail the particular features of a person or a character to help the readers become immersed in your writing.

    Examples:

    “The day of his birth began with Hurricane Charlie pounding at our door in Charleston, South Carolina.”

    “Deciding to attend Hampton Roads Academy, a private school, was one of my most difficult decisions.”

  • Include an Interesting Fact or Definition
  • These types of hooks start by surprising the reader with something that may not have known. Provide an interesting fact about something you are going to discuss in your essay’s body and your audience will want to keep reading to learn more.

    Examples:

    “Spain, though hardly a literary juggernaut, translates more books in one year than the entire Arab world has in the past one thousand years.”

    “Amiable is the best way to describe Elizabeth’s personality: she was friendly and caring.”

  • State Your Thesis
  • There is no harm in getting right to the point. Start with your main argument and use the rest of your essay to support your point of view. If you have an interesting take on a subject, readers will want to see where you came up with your idea.

    Examples:

    “It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday. . .”

    “Humans need to invest more time and money into space exploration because Earth is on a certain path to destruction.”

  • Reveal a Common Misconception
  • The most interesting essays will teach the readers something new. If you start your introduction by showing that a commonly accepted truth is actually false, your readers will be instantly hooked.

    Examples:

    “Any parent will tell you that goldfish are a great first pet for a child. They hardly need any attention, and they won’t be around for too long. Flushing a goldfish in its first week is pretty common—it even happened to my first goldfish. But it turns out that goldfish aren’t as helpless as we all think.”

    “While most coffee enthusiasts would tell you that their favorite drink comes from a bean, they would be wrong. Coffee is actually made from a seed that is simply called a bean.”

  • Statistics
  • By listing proven facts at the very beginning of your paper, you will create interest that can be carried throughout the rest of the essay.

    Examples:

    “The average iceberg weighs over 100,000 metric tons.”

    “70% of all jobs found today were got through different networking strategies”

    We started getting requests about editing help, tutoring or recommending someone for essay writing. Here’s the page to visit for more information: bid4papers.com/write-my-essay.

    Depending on the style of essay you are writing (narrative, persuasive, personal, critical, argumentative, deductive, etc.), the type of hook you will want to use will vary. Remember, your essay hook is just a tip of an iceberg and it will not guarantee that the rest of your essay will work. Be sure to organize your research and start with an outline before deciding on the best hook to start your essay. The right choice can make your paper truly interesting and worth reading.

    Written by Lesley J. Vos, our blog writer and essay proofreader. Lesley is a big fan of reading, and she is always ready to help students come up with good ideas for their papers and reach their academic goals. You can always find her on Facebook and Google+.

    I love anecdotes.

    Especially for starting narrative essays for college application essays.

    They can take a little practice to compose, but what a deceptively powerful writing tool.

    Actually, if you start almost any type of writing with an anecdote–from a college essay to a book report to a press release–your message will instantly rise and shine above other written messages competing for readers’ attention.

    They are engaging, accessible and they have a wow factor. Even though you don’t mean to be impressive, people often think you are so creative and accomplished when you wield them.

    I just think readers are grateful for writing that includes little real-life stories. I know I always am. It’s simple: You want to read them. Who doesn’t want to know what happened next?

    Crash Course in How to Write an Anecdote

    Here’s a handy list of my posts on anecdotes. Read them all and you should be an expert in no time:

    NEW! My Video Tutorial on How to Write an Anecdote: Part One

    How to Write an Anecdote. This post lists the basics of writing an anecdote–from starting at the peak of the action to using sensory details and dialouge.

    How to Turn a Real-Life Moment into an Anecdote. Learn how to take something that happened to you and tell it like a story using literary writing techniques.

    Find Your “Problems” for Great Anecdotes. Learn how to include something “that happened” in your essays as anecdotes to make them exciting and engaging.

    Essay Rocket Fuel: The Anecdote: This post gives an example of an anecdote and how to find the topic for an anecdote to use as an introduction for a narrative essay.

    How to Write Grabber Intros using Anecdotes. Hook your reader at the start by engaging them with a mini-story, aka anecdote.

    The BIG Difference Between a Story and an Anecdote:  This post explains why a story and an anecdote are not the same thing, and how to use an anecdote to “show” a point instead of just “tell” about it.

    How to Find and Tell Anecdotes: This post teaches you how to find a good anecdote to illustrate the main point of your essay.

    Become a Storyteller in Less than Five Minutes. I love this post, if I don’t say so myself. It shows you with simple little line drawing how an anecdote fits into a narrative essay.

    Grab Your Readers with an Anecdote:  This post walks you through taking a little incident or moment and time and spinning it into a short anecdote. Includes a sample anecdote.

    Components of an Anecdote: A good anecdote usually includes scene setting, so the reader can immediately start to visualize where something is happening. And something is happening–like a problem or action.

    It also will include details that help the reader step into the moment–hearing, seeing, smelling and feeling what was going on.

    The best anecdotes help readers experience the moment or incident by including bits of dialogue so they can get into the writer’s head and feel their pain, joy or other thoughts and emotion.

    HOT TIP: To start an anecdote for your narrative essay, begin by letting the reader know WHERE you were (just enough so they get the idea), and then put yourself in the scene.

    Then go from there. Example: Sitting at the bus stop, I stepped off the curb…or: Just before midnight, we gathered in a large circle in front of the fire…or: Driving with my friends along the Coast Highway,we stopped at a gas station…While scraping the burnt onions off the grill, I could tell my shift at the White Castle was almost over…

    Want to write a killer college application essay? Start with an anecdote. You will leave the majority of other essay writers in your college application dust!

    RELATED: My Video Tutorial on How to Write an Anecdote: Part One

     

     

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