Exercise 1
Skill Building--Finding a Focus

As you know from the text, finding a focus for your story before you start to write can help you decide what information to concentrate on and what you can leave out. It's not easy to boil a story down to just a few words, but it can be a huge time-saver.

In this exercise, you'll practice writing focus statements for movie titles or well-known stories. Choose at least three from the list below. Your focus statement may not be any longer than six words.

Questions--Focus Statements

  • A Christmas Carol
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Hamlet
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Three Little Pigs
  • Harry Potter (Book One)

Exercise 2

"If you notice TV writing, then it's poorly written," says CBS News Correspondent Bob Schieffer. "It should be invisible." Schieffer has drawn praise for talking the way people talk. "If there's a fire across the street, you don't walk into the newsroom and say, 'A raging, three-alarm fire, whipped by 40-mile-an-hour winds, ripped through the home next door.' You say, 'There's a fire across the street.'"

Too many stories on television are filled with jargon and generalities, full of wind-whipped fires ripping through neighborhoods. As we point out in the text, word choice is fundamental to good writing.

Watch this story about the sentencing of a man convicted of murder and make note of any jargon and “journalese” you notice.

Click here to download the script for the sentencing story.

Rewrite the script to eliminate any jargon and "journalese" you have spotted. You may want to use "track changes" mode to make your edits stand out.

Exercise 3
Discover Conversational Writing

The sentencing story you watched for Exercise 2 was written for instructional purposes only. Reporter Kim Riemland filed a very different version for KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Watch the story and click here to read the script.

Now write a post on your blog about this story. How is it different from the first version? List at least five major differences in structure, focus, or word choice. Which version do you prefer and why? Don't forget to return to the submissions page to submit the blog post to your instructor for evaluation.

Exercise 4

Find a story or script online and review it for attribution. In the text, you can find an explanation of attribution beginning. List all the statements that include either direct or indirect attribution. Are there elements of the story that should have been attributed but were not?


  • Provide the URL of the story you reviewed.
  • What elements in the story should have been attributed but were not?
  • What information would you need in order to attribute them correctly?