How To Write An Obituary

Helping Families Of Southeastern CT With Funeral Planning Services Since 1950

Writing an obituary is an often difficult but necessary part of death. To make the process easier and give you some guidelines to work with, here are some basics about writing an obituary, as well as ideas about what should be included.

This is almost fully customizable, although the usual format is as listed and the most important parts of the opening are the announcement, full name of the deceased, and date of death. After this initial announcement or opening statement, more details can be written about and the order of information isn’t set in stone.

    • Full name of the deceased (including nickname, if any)
    • Residence (usually city and state) at death
    • Day and date of death (remember to include the year)
    • Age at death
    • Place of death
    • Cause of death

    A simple example of this would be as follows:
    “John ‘Smitty’ Smith was 93 and living in Memphis, TN when he died on October 3rd, 2014 of a heart attack in his home.”

    You can try to fit it all in one sentence, but you may want to split it up into two. Using previously published obituaries as an example is a good idea.

  • LIFE
    • Date & place of birth
    • Parents’ names
    • Childhood: siblings, stories, schools, friends, etc.
    • Marriage(s): date, place, name of spouse, etc.
    • Education: school, college, university
    • Titles, awards, and recognitions
    • Employment: jobs, stories, colleagues, promotions, etc.
    • Places of residence
    • Hobbies, interests, activities
    • Charitable, religious, fraternal, political, and other affiliations
    • Unusual attributes, humor, stories

    Please note that not all of this information has to be included. A simple example would be as follows:

    “Born in the UK to parents Jack and Diane Smith in July of 1921, John had four older brothers and sisters. They grew up partially in the UK before moving to the US when John was 10. He was married once to Julie Smith, who passed away in 2011. John taught history and liked to joke around with his students when it came time to teach the story of settlers coming to the new world, telling them he knew Pocahontas personally. Though he spent most of his life in Memphis, he still remembered the UK fondly for many years and would go back from time to time to visit his siblings, several of whom stayed behind when his parents immigrated.”

    Of course you can go into as much or as little detail as needed for the particular person you’re writing about; that all depends on how much information you have and how much you’re comfortable sharing.

    • Survived by (including places of residence):
      • Spouse
      • Children (in order of date of birth; including their spouses)
      • Grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren
      • Parents
      • Grandparents
      • Siblings (in order of date of birth)
      • Others (nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws, etc.)
      • Pets (if appropriate)
    • Predeceased by (including dates of death):
      • Spouse
      • Children (in order of date of birth)
      • Grandchildren
      • Siblings (in order of date of birth)
      • Others (nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws, etc.)
      • Pets (if appropriate)

    The most pertinent people are the ones to focus on here; this is simply a guideline. You don’t need to list every single person here; that could take up a lot of space and become tedious if the deceased has an exceptionally large family. However, a simple example would be as follows:

    “John is survived by two sons, Jesse and James, both married with two children of their own. Unfortunately, his wife, Julie, died in 2011.”

    • Day, date, time, place
    • Name of officiant, pallbearers, honorary pallbearers, other information
    • Reception information
    • Other memorial, vigil, or graveside services
    • Place of burial
    • Name of funeral home handling arrangements
    • Where to call for more information (even if no service is planned)

    This section is fairly self-explanatory; again, not every bit of this has to be included, but it’s a good idea to at least list the day, date, time, and place of the funeral service and a phone number to call for more information, as well as the funeral home in charge of the service.

  • END
    • Memorial funds & donation suggestions
    • Thank you (people, groups, or institutions)
    • Quotation or poem
    • Three words that sum up the individual’s life

    The quotation or poem is an area where you can get more creative, and the three word summary is, too. This is an excellent opportunity to personalize the obituary to the person you’re writing about; for example, if there was a saying or phrase the person used a lot, that might be something to consider using.

    Some basic tips for writing an obituary:

      • Use a template (like this one).
      • Research the newspaper you’re submitting it to – do they have a certain template or format?
      • Beware of identity theft – notify banks and other institutions of the death.
      • Focus on the deceased.
      • Strike a balance between life and death.
      • Don’t just list facts – focus on positive aspects of the individual’s personality and illustrate those with stories or anecdotes.
      • Decide which family members to list; talk it over with the family if needed.
      • Look for inspiration online and by doing research on other obituaries.
      • Ask an obituary writer for help.
      • Revise and proofread – don’t publish an obituary riddled with errors.

    For more resources, tips, and templates, take a look at this article:


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