Writing An Obituary

Obituary Writing Guide

Writing a good obituary is a delicate and important task. Whether it is for a spouse, family member, or close friend, the first thing you should do is ask yourself one question: What is included in a good obituary? For starters, it must include accurate factual information about the deceased and have a storytelling component that captures the spirit of the life being written about. The ideal obituary is informative, engaging and evokes some positive memory or anecdote of the person who has passed away. In addition, part of writing a great obituary involves understanding where it is going and the purpose it serves. This obituary writing guide will help you get started and we hope that you find this information to be most helpful in doing so.


Is a Death Notice Different From an Obituary?

Death notices are more matter-of-fact than obituaries in the way that they are meant to convey only information about the death, personal details of the deceased and other relevant facts. Obituaries, in contrast, are longer and include far more detail. In addition to covering the same information as death notices, obituaries also expand on the experiences, accomplishments and life milestones of the deceased. In short, it is the personalization that sets the two apart. Regardless of whether you are writing an obituary or a death notice, the following information should be included, at least in part, in some way. You will want to include their name, if they were married (for women, their maiden name) or if they had a nickname. Also, you will want to have these essential details:


  • Their age upon death
  • Birthday
  • Birthplace
  • A list of the surviving relatives
  • The date of death
  • The location (city/state) where they died
  • Details about the funeral service: date, time, place
  • Full name
  • Date of death
  • Where the person lived

Writing an obituary benefits more than just the family. By writing an obituary for a loved one, you are also serving future generations (family, friends, and society as a whole) by solidifying the memory of the deceased in a personalized and permanent way. A cool way to think about it is that you, as a writer, are helping to create history and at the very least, the deceased's role in such record. If you are chosen to write an obituary, it is a humbling and inspiring role.


The Well-Written Obituary

Throughout history, many have used the obituary as a way to solidify the legacy and create a lasting memory of those that have passed away. Many of these obituaries are worthy of recognition and make us cry or become a memorable source of laughter, or both. When writing an obituary, it is important to strive for an emotional reaction. If you do a good job, readers will catch a glimpse of the deceased's life. Because obituaries are now held in cyberspace, they are easier to access and far more permanent than their offline, newsprint predecessors.


How you document the life of your loved one is up to you. This guide is simply meant to serve as a continued resource should you require further guidance. Writing a good obituary is not an easy task, so went to make as much information available as possible. In addition to the essential details that we mentioned above, obituaries can also be enhanced by the inclusion of the following additional information.


  • Parents' names
  • Information about the spouse and children
  • Church affiliations
  • Job or career information
  • Personal and professional accomplishments
  • Personal character and interests
  • Influence on his or her community

Once you have mapped out what information you are going to include in the obit, it is time to sit back and think of all the fond memories, wonderful stories and other facts that can help shed some light on your loved one's life. Remember, it is your role to bring the best of the best to the forefront. Carefully weave these anecdotes with factual information to help the reader clearly see who your loved one was, what they did, how they lived and who or what they loved. The more detail you can provide, the easier it will be for people to understand.


Writing Your Own Obituary

There have been many marvelous examples of celebrities and other notable people writing their own obituaries. While this trend may not yet be popular with the general public, more and more people are at least considering the option of writing their own obituary. Even if it is not used, this can still be a good exercise in self-reflection and has been used in higher-learning courses around the country. If you do decide to write your own obituary, the process is much the same and if anything, it will be much easier to write about your own life.


Don't Forget to Proofread

The final and perhaps most important step of writing an obituary is ensuring that, before you submit a final copy, you have checked the spelling and grammar of the obituary. Be sure that you have read through it two, or even three times before submission. Also, if you are uncertain, it is good to contact other loved ones to check that you have all facts straight. Remember, obituaries are permanent, so proceed with a great amount of diligence and care.


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