What is a Functional Text? - Definition & Examples

What is a Functional Text? - Definition & Examples
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  • 0:01 What Are Functional Texts?
  • 0:37 Examples
  • 2:08 Format & Design
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

From flyers to recipes, functional texts play a role in our lives by performing a specific function. This lesson describes what sets functional texts apart, including how we interact with them.

What Are Functional Texts?

Your bus is late and you're stuck waiting a long time at a bus stop. With no cell phone handy or newspaper nearby, you turn to the wall behind you and start to read the bus schedule. Boring, maybe, but it's still text and something to pass the time. Plus, by the time your bus arrives, you've learned you could have taken an express bus that would have arrived at your destination much faster than the route you normally take.

In this lesson, you'll learn more about this and other functional texts, writings that are meant to help you out and solve a problem in a straightforward way.

What are Examples of Functional Texts?

Functional texts can include everything from the how-to instructions on a do-it-yourself website to the product manual for your fridge. Other examples include brochures, menus, warranties, directories, forms to fill out, signs, recipes, and even public transportation schedules.

Whether printed or online, instruction manuals are considered functional texts.
A large manual for an old computer

What makes a functional text so different than anything else we describe as text? Typically, functional texts are consumed by a reader for the purpose of accomplishing something or getting us to the next step of what we need to do.

For instance, if you spill grape juice on a new carpet, you might search online for how to remove the stain. You see three articles that come up in your search results. Which will you choose?

  • 'A History of Grape Juice', an academic journal article by a Harvard professor
  • 'How to Remove Grape Juice in 5 Easy Steps', a short set of instructions
  • Magic Carpet Ride, a novel by Audrey McClellan

You're definitely going to choose the '5 Easy Steps' for how to remove the stain, right? This is because the other types of text don't fit your need. 'The History of Grape Juice' may or may not cover your topic of the stain and is too much information to review for your purpose. The novel may also be irrelevant and its subject is fiction.

You need something that instructs you on how to address the issue you're having and move beyond it. The website with the instructions is your way to go and is an example of a functional text.

Format and Design

Functional texts don't follow one set format, but you can recognize them based in part on how you interact with them.

When you read a novel for your own pleasure, you likely will read from start to finish (or at least this is your intention). When you read an academic article, you might skip around, but you know you need to read the whole thing to fully understand the topic.

With functional texts, you are only meant to review the parts that matter to your situation. For example, if the article on removing grape juice stains from carpets also includes a section on removing apple juice stains, you might just skip the section on apple juice stains since you don't have this problem.

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