Tips on Writing Obituaries

Derived from the Latin noun, ‘obitus’, meaning ‘death’, the definition of obituary is two-fold.

Obituaries usually refer to brief death notices placed in newspapers or other publications by family members or those organising the funeral, in consultation with the funeral director.

The term obituary is also used to describe a lengthier death announcement written for local newspapers, national publications, or increasingly, nowadays, for posting online. Such expanded obituaries generally include more detailed biographical information about the deceased and their unique contribution during their lifetime.

Tips on writing obituaries for newspapers & other publications

One of the many practical tasks faced by the bereaved, in the emotionally charged period following the death of a loved one, is that of preparing an obituary for publication. In practice, however, it is reassuring to know that your chosen funeral director will take on the entire process, on your behalf, if you prefer. All you’ll need to do is discuss the format for the obituary with your undertaker and then provide the necessary data and documentation relating to the deceased.

Of course, you may decide to compose the entire obituary yourself. In which case, you’ll need to be aware of certain requirements for basic information; it’s also important to check, carefully, for accuracy all personal details relating to the deceased.

Content tips on writing obituaries

As a general guideline, you might wish to include the following information:

  • full name of deceased, plus any pet names or nicknames, if appropriate
  • date of death
  • date of birth, or age at death
  • cause of death (optional)
  • place of death
  • name of spouse or partner, where applicable, as well as parents and / or close family members and their relationship to the deceased
  • former place of employment, if relevant
  • details of funeral arrangements
  • memorial donation suggestions and / or guidelines for sending floral tributes
  • an extended obituary may also offer more comprehensive biographical information, e.g. details of former employment, profession, education, achievements, any awards of recognition, hobbies, membership of associations, unique contributions to society, personal attributes, etc

Tips on writing obituaries for online submission

Many newspapers now routinely publish obituaries online, as well as in hard copy. In fact, there is a growing trend for publication, exclusively online. Accessing an online obituary database is generally free, although you may have to sign up for membership with certain publications. The downside is that listings are often only available for a short period of time, before being archived.

Alternatively, you could explore the possibility of creating a permanent, online tribute by setting up a ‘life-story’ page on a secure and dedicated memorial website. Personalise your obituary by uploading pictures, images, videos, audio files and publishing anecdotes, etc. Once the page has been set up, you’ll be able to share all your fond memories with friends and family, worldwide, or even post on additional websites.

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