What Is the Role of a Functional Paragraph in an Essay?

Writers use functional paragraphs in essays to achieve a specific purpose, such as transition from one point to the next, arouse or sustain a reader’s interest or to indicate dialogue. Functional and topical paragraphs form the basis of an essay.

In most pieces of writing, writers will use an indented (five spaces from the left-hand margin) block of sentences known as a paragraph. Paragraphs can serve many purposes, but are typically used to:

  • Introduce a subject or set the context for a longer piece of writing
  • Shift focus or introduce a new idea supportive of the main point in the essay
  • Draw attention to points the writer would like to emphasize
  • Break up a long paragraph to enhance readability
  • Summarize or conclude text

Topic sentence paragraphs and functional paragraphs are the two basic paragraph categories. Topic sentence paragraphs contain a sentence that describes the main idea of the paragraph, or the topic sentence. The remaining sentences in a topic sentence paragraph are the support sentences, which further develop, discuss or explain the main idea. Paragraphs that do not function as a topic sentence paragraph fall into the functional category. When used strategically, functional paragraphs are helpful tools to add drama or variation to writing.