If you can’t tell the reader what it’s about in the first sentence, then they’re not going to read the second sentence. This is the hook, the idea that makes the article or blog post or ad copy. The hook is the difference between a piece of writing with a clearly defined purpose, and a piece of writing that’s just a bunch of words strung together.
In music, the “hook” is the chorus, the part that’s catchy and easy to sing along with. In a movie, the hook is what the trailer sells you: a guy can kill you in your dreams, a billionaire builds a powered suit to fight crime, a robot goes back in time to prevent the end of the world.
In web content, the hook can be described as the promise that the writer makes to the reader. The headline typically teases at the hook, “1 Weird Trick To Get Great Abs” and so on. The first sentence is a clear statement of the hook, and the rest of the article delivers on the premise. That one weird trick to get great abs might be to focus on burning fat so that you can show off your abdominal muscles. You would state that in the first sentence, and then spend the rest of the article elaborating on that, explaining the science of it, how body fat around the torso tends to droop down to your stomach when you’re standing, and you would share tips on how to burn belly fat.
This post is about content writing. Note that the first sentence lets you know, well, how important the first sentence is. From there, we discuss why it’s important, and how the rest of a piece flows out of that first sentence, and how it all revolves around the hook.
A good hook doesn’t have to be complicated. The best hooks might have a twist to them, but they’re generally simple. If we wanted to take you through the history of content writing, from the first newspaper advertisement to today, we’d wind up with a blog post that makes for a great reference piece, and really dull reading. If all we’re doing is talking about how important the hook is, well, that’s easy to cover in just four, five hundred words, and it’s easy to read.
Identifying a great hook comes right down to: would I want to read this if someone else wrote it? With a really strong hook and a good opening sentence, the rest often writes itself.
Gilbert S is a writer and artist who lives in Bluewater, New Mexico with his wife, and his dog, Sir Kay