A focus statement is a verbal articulation of what a writer is trying to accomplish with a piece of writing. It is normally created before the writer devotes significant time to a piece and if created well keeps the writer on track by ensuring that everything he writes is on topic and fulfills the goals of the focus statement.
The creation of a focus statement has long been a favorite assignment of English and writing professors. Focus statements are considered a building block of good writing, akin to the relationship of arithmetic to advanced math.
Beyond the professor who might want to see your focus statement before you get started, the audience for the typical focus statement is the writer herself. A focus statement usually does not appear in the piece itself.
Phrasing the focus statement in the form of a question can be an effective way to distill a topic into a focus statement.
Another tip is to think about the emotional responses that a piece might evoke. For example, if you are writing about your road trip across the United States, ask yourself, what do you want people to feel while they are reading your piece? Do you want the reader to be entertained? To feel curious? To feel informed?
Like any piece of good writing, the focus statement should be as concise and clear as possible. Cramming too much into a focus statement will only lead to unfocused writing.
A good focus statement should be unambiguous, generate interest on the part of the reader and even be provocative.
If a focus statement leaves anything unclear or generates a shrug of the shoulders or similar apathetic response, it is not a strong focus statement.
An example of a good focus statement might be:
"If poker can be proven to be a game of skill, should online poker then be legalized?"
A less effective focus statement on the same topic might be:
"There is currently controversy about the legality of online poker. Many feel that gambling in any form should be legislated online, while others believe that poker is an exception because it is a game of skill."
Relatives of the focus statement are the thesis statement used by academics, the hypothesis statement used by researchers and the vision statement used by organizations. What each of these other kinds of statements share with the focus statement is that they clearly and concisely establish what the reader should expect next.
Academics use thesis statements to inform the reader as to the position or interpretation they have taken on a given topic. Researchers use hypothesis statements to articulate the scope and objectives of their research. Organizations use vision statements to communicate its goals, ideals and reason for being.