HomeHEALINGIn Grief: Helpful Tips on Writing an Obituary

In Grief: Helpful Tips on Writing an Obituary

Maybe someday our obituaries will say – preferably after we die, of course – that we lived in peace, in love, and mostly in grace. ~ Jaime Jo Wright

as mentioned in a previous postObituaries include both public and private events that celebrate a person’s life and engagement in the community.
If you’ve ever had the task of writing and preparing an obituary for publication in a newspaper or online, you may find these tips helpful:

• Use the local newspaper as a guide. Read the other entries in the obituary section to understand the paper’s distinctive writing style.

• Check to see if the mortuary or funeral home has an obituary writing guide. (Some morgues include obituary submission to the newspaper as part of their funeral package, and some newspapers will only accept obituaries submitted by funeral homes, morgues, and cremation grounds.)

• Be sure you know what costs are involved before submitting an obituary or death notice to any newspaper. The cost will vary as different papers use different formats, column widths and font sizes. Ask about the word limit, word count per column inch, cost of each additional line or inch, cost of including a photo, and if there are any restrictions on length.

• Know and follow newsletter deadlines, so the notice you submit appears on time and informs the community when and where important events will take place. If you don’t know those details yet, just state who is making the arrangements [name of funeral home or mortuary] and will be announced at a later date. Those interested may contact the funeral home for details instead of disturbing the family.

• Ask if the newspaper publishes online obituaries. (Many newspapers now expand their coverage by linking to online partners, such as Legacy.com.) Find out if guidelines for online listings differ from the paper’s in-print guidelines.

• If you use an online memorial website (eg Evergreen, lost forever, Kudoboardguard, or legacy), visit the site first to see a sample monument, and use that as a guide. Some sites have templates you can use, and some will accept pictures and videos in addition to comments from others.

• Consider where your content will be used, and write accordingly. You can compose both short and long versions of the same material: one to meet newspaper requirements, the other as an online memorial or as part of your family history.

• Organize your content by following the outline at the end of this post: outline for writing a death noticeAnd obituary writing outline, (See below.)

• Strive for accuracy and completeness. Make sure names are spelled correctly, dates are accurate and all important information is included. Consult other family members to help gather facts and check details for accuracy.

• Include details about the deceased that are important to family records and future genealogy research: date of birth, middle name, maiden name if married.

• Write in a style that is personable, dignified and respectful.

• Be careful in stating the cause of death. This is optional and does not need to be specific, especially if the family prefers to keep the details private. If you choose to give the reason, you can say, for example, that the person died: suddenly and unexpectedly; from complications related to lung disease [heart disease, cancer], after long time [brief] Disease; or due to traffic accident.

• Include details to remind readers of how they knew the person who died, especially if much of that life was spent elsewhere: schools attended, organizational membership, religious affiliation, employer. If the deceased was related to a well-known member of the community who is also deceased, you can identify that person as a “son”. [daughter] Late Dr. of Robert Jones.

• Arrange biographical details chronologically, or according to known priorities in the life of the deceased. Either way is acceptable, and no set order is required.

• Identify surviving family members. Depending on the size of the family, include the names and locations of immediate family members, and those who died before the person. If the list is too long, be sure to provide an exact count (for example, “Five children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.”). You can even include the names of any special pets, if desired and appropriate.

• Do not print house numbers, which may alert thieves to vacate homes at the time of the funeral.

• Include important details about the service, and where to call for more information. Include the day, date, time and location of all services planned, as well as the names of the funeral officiant and pallbearer. Identify the funeral home or mortuary in charge of the arrangements. Even if no service is planned, it is helpful to give readers a number to call for more information, so that the family can be relieved of the burden of taking endless phone calls.

• Suggest memorial donations including addresses.

• After you’ve written your piece, proofread it several times, and polish as you go. Read it out loud and revise as needed. Make sure you haven’t left out any important family members or left out important information about the person who died. Ask someone you trust to read your final draft, checking for spelling and grammatical errors you may have overlooked, and giving you honest feedback. Revise and edit accordingly, before submitting for publication.

• Submit (or ask if the funeral home will submit) an electronic copy of the obituary to the newspaper (or website) via e-mail or compact disc. Faxing typed or handwritten copy increases the potential for errors, especially if the copy must be scanned or retyped by someone at the newspaper.

• Ask to fax a final copy of the obituary for review before it is published by the newspaper. Not all papers will say yes, but some will.

• Once the obituary appears in print, check it for errors. If necessary, many papers are willing to reprint a revised version of the obituary the next day at no extra charge, with only a phone call from the family to request it.

outline for writing a death notice

• City, State of Residence:

• Date and place of death:

obituary writing outline

• City, State of Residence:

• Date and place of death:

• Cause of death (optional):

• Place, date of birth, parents:

• Wedding Date (Optional):

• Religious Affiliation:

• Outstanding Achievements:

• Notable Honors and Awards:

• Organizational Membership, Professional Affiliation:

• Interests and Passions:

• Important Activities and Hobbies:

• Important Life Events, Representative Anecdotes, Memories:

• Cherished Values ​​and Beliefs:

• Children (and their spouses) and city of residence:

• Grandson and city of residence:

• Siblings (and their spouses) and city of residence:

• Other significant relatives and cities of residence:

• Predeceased relatives:

• Special Pets (optional):

• Funeral/Memorial Service Information

• Names of Pallbearers:

• Direct Memorial Contribution:

• Online space to share thoughts, share memories:

Your Feedback is Welcome! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions, or share any suggestions, related articles, or your own resources, in the comments section below. If you’d like to have Grief Healing Blog updates delivered straight to your inbox, you are cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Grief Healing Newsletter, register here,


image by Simon from pixabay



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