In traditional academia (that word makes me want to vomit), there is a writing technique called the hook sentence.
While most of the shit we learn in school is useless, this lesser-known literary maneuver is wildly powerful for the entrepreneur, marketer, writer and snow cone vendor looking to sell like hell with the written word.
Whether you’re slinging ink for your site’s landing page, a sales email sequence or a big fat SEO-powered article like the one you’re reading now … the hook sentence can be used to grab your reader by the shirt and tell him or her to listen up.
If you keep reading, not only am I going to shower you with numerous hook sentence examples, but I am going to give you a few tips and tricks on how to write some of your own.
But, first, let’s define what a hook sentence is…
What is a hook sentence?
If we are talking books, and not the good ones by Hemingway but the big clunky academic ones, a hook sentence can be defined as follows…
The first one or two sentences of an essay that serve(s) as both an introduction to the reader and an attention grabber.
While here in the real world we don’t write essays but instead blogs and articles, this definition still mostly applies for how we will be using a hook sentence.
However, instead of using up to two sentences, we will just be using one. For the remainder of this article and when crafting a hook sentence for any future business, marketing or advertising writing, please think about the following definition to define what a hook sentence is…
A sentence that grabs the reader’s attention and gives them a reason to keep reading.
If you’ve ever thumbed through any of my articles here at Honey Copy, you know how in love I am with the sentence.
I’m constantly studying them, drooling over them and collecting them ( here are 81 of my favorite sentences in literature).
I believe in the sentence so much as both a marketer and writer, that about a third of my copywriting guide focuses strictly on writing killer sentences (or hook sentences rather) that can ultimately lead to selling whatever the hell it is you are selling.
Everything writing and copy and marketing related begins and ends with a single sentence. So, if you can learn to write a damn good one, you have a real chance at writing something that sells.
Before we dive into some of the best hook sentence examples I’ve seen in literature, let me first give you a few pointers on how you can write one of your own.
How to write a hook sentence?
I discuss the strategies I use to write a hook sentence in detail in my copywriting guide. So, if you’re really looking to write killer sentences (or just better copy in general), I’d highly recommend you check it out.
With that said, here are two pieces of advice you can begin applying immediately to write better hook sentences…
Keep your hook sentence short.
Readers are lazy and busy. You have less than 7 seconds to grab their attention so don’t write a hook sentence that requires 30 seconds to read. In fact, try to keep them under 10 words.
Use simple, easily-digestible language.
What article would you rather read?
A comprehensive overview of the ramifications that result in avoiding psychological triggers.
If you guessed the latter, you’re correct… that headline won me a viral article that has been read by hundreds of thousands of people.
If you do these two things alone… keep things short and simple… I promise you will see in immediate difference in the hook-ability of your hook sentences.
Now, if you are anything like me, you learn better by seeing what works versus simply reading a how-to guide. So, allow me to give you some examples of killer hook sentences.
63 lovely hook sentences.
Are you excited?
Because I’m shaking in my Red Wing boots with elation.
I’ve compiled the greatest, loveliest, sexiest hook sentences of all time from the most brilliant minds in literature. The reason I chose literature is because the best writers in the world exist there. And, not to mention, to get a reader to commit to reading a 100,000-word novel… you need a damn good hook sentence.
Buckle up and put your wallet in a fucking safe, because your world is about to implode…
1. I lost my arm on my last trip home.
— Octavia Butler, Kindred.
2. A screaming comes across the sky.
— Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.
3. It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel.
— Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad.
4. Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
— George Eliot, Middlemarch.
5. We slept in what once had been the gymnasium.
— Margaret Atwood, The Handmade’s Tale.
6. It was love at first sight.
— Joseph Heller, Catch-22.
7. In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers.
— Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife.
8. I’m pretty much fucked.
— Andy Weir, Martian.
9. The war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes.
— Sara Nović, Girl at War
10. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
— Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man And The Sea.
11. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
— Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice.
12. “All stories are love stories.”
— Robert McLiam Wilson, Eureka Street.
13. Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.
— Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You.
14. It was a pleasure to burn.
— Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.
15. All this happened, more or less.
— Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five.
16. I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
— Dodie Smith, I Capture The Castle.
17. In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.
— Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It.
18. When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.
— Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games.
19. When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
— Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird.
20. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
— Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre.
21. They shoot the white girl first.
— Toni Morrison, Paradise.
22. The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended.
— Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
23. The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
— William Gibson, Neuromancer.
24. We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
— Hunter S. Thompson, Fear And Loathing In Los Vegas.
25. Mother died today.
— Albert Camus, The Stranger.
26. I am a camera with its shutter open, quiet, passive, recording, not thinking.
— Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye To Berlin.
27. “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.
— E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web.
28. I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man.
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground.
29. We start dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.
— Robyn Davidson, Tracks.
30. The moment one learns English, complications set in.
— Felipe Alfau, Chromos.
31. Call me Ishmael.
— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale.
32. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.
— Charles R. Johnson, Middle Passage.
33. You better not never tell nobody but God.
— Alice Walker, The Color Purple.
34. Once upon a time, there was a women who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
— Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups.
35. All children, except one, grow up.
— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
36. It was the day my grandmother exploded.
— Iain Banks, The Crow Road.
37. This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it.
— William Goldman, The Princess Bride.
38. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
— L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between.
39. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
— Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
40. I am an invisible man.
— Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man.
41. Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.
— Franz Kafka, The Trial.
42. This is the saddest story I have ever heard.
— Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier.
43. 124 was spiteful.
— Toni Morrison, Beloved.
44. Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.
— Ha Jin, Waiting.
45. Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
— Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.
46. Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.
— Anita Brookner, The Debut.
47. I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.
— Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome.
48. In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
49. Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden.
— David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System.
50. In the late summer of that year, we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.
— Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms.
51. Justice? — You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.
— William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own.
52. Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash.
— J. G. Ballard, Crash.
53. In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together.
— Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.
54. The time has come.
— Dr. Seuss, Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!
55. Dear Anyone Who Finds This, Do not blame the drugs.
— Lynda Barry, Cruddy.
56. It was raining in Richmond on Friday, June 6.
— Patricia Cornwell, Postmortem.
57. Don’t look for dignity in public bathrooms.
— Victor LaValle, Big Machine.
58. We wanted more.
— Justin Torres, We the Animals.
59. ‘You are full of nightmares,’ Harriet tells me.
— James Baldwin, “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon”.
60. There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
— Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book.
61. Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.
— Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin: A Novel.
62. This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.
— Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions.
63. His children are falling from the sky.
— Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies.
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