It refers to those texts that we produce in order to achieve a specific purpose. All writing has purpose. Functional writing is narrowly targeted at a particular reader, from whom we want a definite, practical response. In fact, most writing that most ordinary people do belongs to this category of writing. Pieces of functional writing are intended to fulfil specific needs, like applying for a job, registering to vote, keeping records or publicizing an event.

Types of Functional Writing

Functional writing covers a wide variety of texts. The following are some of the common types of functional writing that you are likely to encounter and be required to undertake in your day to day operations;

  1. Letters: written messages addressed to specific individuals or organizations
  2. Memos/Memoranda: official internal notes addressed to members of an organization
  3. Curriculum vitae (Resume): a summary of one’s education and work experience
  4. Public notices: written announcements informing or reminding people of an activity
  5. Minutes: brief records of what is discussed and agreed upon at a meeting
  6. Reports: accounts of the activities, findings and results of an undertaking or project
  7. Speeches: written texts of what speakers intend to say to an audience
  8. Diaries and personal journals: brief records of one’s daily experiences and reflections
  9. Recipes: guides on how to prepare dishes, listing ingredients and cooking steps
  10. Forms: printed application, declaration or registration texts prepared to gather information about an individual or an organization.
  11. Electronic mail and short message service (SMS): electronic letters sent over the internet and mobile telephone networks respectively


Letters can be classified as formal or informal letters.


Whether a letter is formal or informal (business letters, personal business letters and personal letters), they all contain this parts;

  1. Heading
  2. Inside address


Formal letters are written for various purposes such as to apply for jobs, extend invitations, convey apologies, make requests or enquiries and register complaints among other uses.

Formal letters can be broadly categorized either as; i) business letters and ii) personal business letters

Business letters are written from one business firm to another or from a business to an individual customer or client. Personal business letters are written by individuals to business firms.

While writing a formal letter, you should include the following:

  1. Writers’ address which is written on the left hand side at the top corner unless the indent style of paragraphing is preferred
  2. Date of writing is placed one line below the writers’ address
  3. The line below the date on the left hand side contains the title of the person to whom the letter is addressed (addressee). Also provide the postal address
  4. Salutation is placed below the addressee’s address: ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ are common salutations
  5. Subject/Reference/Heading of the letter should appear two lines below the salutation and preferably be written in capital letters and underlined. The subject which should be brief and to the point captures the theme of the letter
  6. The main body of the letter follows the heading. The letter should have an introductory paragraph which states the objectives of the letter while the following one or two paragraphs develop the letter by providing more details that relate to the purpose of writing the letter. You should make it short and precise. Nevertheless, include the necessary information that will help to convey the message precisely, accurately and concisely.
  7. Mention the purpose of writing, the job being applied for and where the advert was placed
  8. State your qualifications and experience clearly
  9. Indicate why you wish to be given the job
  10. Show optimism e.g. Looking forward to hear from you
  11. The complimentary close for instance ‘Yours Faithfully’ closes the letter. If the salutation in the letter is ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ then the closing tag should be ‘Your Faithfully’. However, if the letter stated the name of addressee e.g ‘Dear Mrs. Ngugi’ or ‘Dear Mr. Otieno’ the complimentary close should be ‘Yours Sincerely’
  12. Write your signature
  13. Your name appears below the signature



Informal letters can be referred to as personal letters which are exchanged by friends and relatives. For this reason there is flexibility in the language used but this doesn’t mean that one becomes impolite or overly casual when writing informal letters. Observe accuracy of the language and avoid grammatical and spelling mistakes.

When writing informal letters note the following:

  1. Your address is usually on the right hand side at the top corner of the paper. Do not write your name in the address since you will write it in the closing tag. You may use block or indented style in writing the address
  2. The date is written one line below your address
  3. Write the salutation on the left hand side stating the name of the addressee e.g. Dear Margret
  4. The body of the letter contains the main content of the letter: introductory paragraph, main paragraph and conclusion
  5. Complimentary close is usually ‘Yours Lovingly’ or ‘Yours Sincerely’. Other closing tags are allowed depending on the relationship between you and addressee; one can close for example, ‘Your affectionate son’ or ‘Your loving daughter’ etc
  6. Write your name as you close the letter on same side as your address i.e. right side



Memo means ‘note to assist memory’. Memos are used for internal communication purposes only. For that reason, memos provide a rapid and convenient means of communication between members of the organization; could be between executives and subordinates or officers of the same level. Although memo styles differ widely from company to company they basically consist of a heading and a body.  An internal memo has the following features:

  • Name of the person sending out the memo.
  • Name of the person(s) the memo is being sent to.
  • Reference number (optional).
  • Subject (information heading).
  • Body- for brief information- not detailed communication.
  • Sender’s signature or initials—at the bottom of the main text.

Functions/Purpose of Memos

Memos serve a variety of purposes such as;

  1. To issue instructions to staff.
  2. To communicate decisions and policy changes to staff
  3. To give or seek suggestions
  4. To request help or information
  5. To confirm a decision arrived at on telephone etc.
  6. To send messages or very brief reports
  7. Introduce a topic, a person
  8. Enquire about certain matters/information
  9. Remind members of an organization any important matters




TO:                  All Class Representatives (Town Campus)

FROM:             David Kamau, Head of Department

REF NO:          TTTI/015

DATE:             18th February 2016

SUBJECT:        Observing Dress Code

It has come to my attention that students are not observing the dress code rules. Students are attending classes shabbily and indecently dressed. I have spotted young men adorning caps while in classes as well as ladies who are wearing short and revealing clothes.

I therefore request you to ensure that the school dress code is adhered to at all times when the school is on session. Forward the names of students who fail to observe the dress code to the Head of Department moving forward.

xxxxxx signature




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