How To Write An Obituary

A simple checklist for making sure your obituary honors and informs.

When someone close to you dies, one of the hardest tasks you will ever have to do is write their obituary. It can be a difficult process, but it is very important. An obituary gives friends and family members a chance to remember the deceased and share their memories. It can also be a way to inform people about the funeral service. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of writing an obituary. We will discuss how to choose the right words, how to format it correctly, and how to submit it for publication.

We hope that this guide will take the stress and pressure off of you and allow you to honor your loved one simply. Remember, your funeral arranger is an experienced professional, and he/she is a valuable resource for writing the obituary.


What is an obituary?

An obituary is a notice of someone's death, usually published in a newspaper. It often includes information about the person's life, family, funeral arrangements, and survivors. Writing an obituary can be a difficult task because it requires you to condense a person's life into just a few paragraphs. You want to make sure that you include all of the important information while still keeping the obituary brief.


Tips to writing an obituary 
Check for rates

Before writing the obituary, you might want to check the cost of publishing one.  Newspapers often have different rates for obituaries, so you'll want to make sure you are aware of how much it will cost. This will decide how long or short your obituary is.


Notification of death 

First and foremost, you need to announce the death by providing the basic information.  This includes the name of the deceased, the date and place of death, and how the person passed away. You can probably include all this information in a single sentence.

You can also include other information such as

  • Any familial survivors

  • Education

  • Vocation

  • When the person retired, if relevant

  • Any military affiliations

  • Any volunteer affiliations


Brief life summary 

After notifying people of the death, you'll want to provide a brief summary of the person's life. This can include when they were born, where they grew up, and any major life events. You might also want to include a quote from the deceased or from a close friend or family member to honor their life.


Make it a bit personal

Including personal details can make an obituary more memorable and touching. Perhaps the person was a great cook or loved to travel. Maybe they were always willing to help a neighbor in need or their actions have a positive impact on the people around them. Adding these little tidbits will give readers a better idea of who the person was and how they lived their life.


List down family members

An obituary should also include a list of surviving family members. This might include the person’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, and grandparents. You can also include the names of any nieces or nephews, cousins, or other relatives that were close to the deceased. For other relatives, you can refer to them in a more general way.


Include funeral information

Family and friends often rely on an obituary for information on when and where a person’s life will be celebrated, so your obituary will make it very simple for them to get that information (and will save you the hassle of having to answer lots of questions at a time when you would prefer not to be bothered with small details). You can include:

  • Date and time of the funeral

  • Place the funeral is being held

  • Any viewing details

  • Requests for donations in lieu of flowers


Review for any mistakes

Once you have written the obituary, it is important to read it over several times to make sure there are no mistakes. This includes ensuring that all of the information is accurate and that names are spelled correctly. You may also want to have someone else read it over to catch any errors you may have missed. Since an obituary is usually written during a time of grief, getting another person's perspective can be helpful. 


What should you not include in an obituary?

In an obituary, don't provide too much personal information. Leave out facts like the deceased's date and place of birth, middle name, maiden name, and mother's maiden name that could be used to steal their identity. The deceased's home address should not be included.


How to submit an obituary for publication?

You can either go to the newspaper's website and follow the steps there, or you can go to Legacy.com and discover a link to the newspaper's death notice submission page. Obituaries can be submitted to newspapers in a few different ways:

  • Through email

  • Via the newspaper's website

  • By fax

  • Or by standard mail 


When writing an obituary, it is important to remember that you are writing for posterity. The goal is to capture the essence of the person who has died and to provide information that will be helpful for those who knew and loved them. If you need help with writing an obituary or planning a funeral or cremation service, get in touch with H.E. Turner & Co., Inc. Funeral Home by calling us at (585) 494-1210.