How to write an obituary

The aim of an obituary is to notify the public of the death.  It’s a short piece of text that gets displayed in local or national newspapers and now also online.  Essentially, they are mini-biographies of someone’s life.

An obituary should not be confused with a Death Notice or Death Announcement which would usually appear in a newspaper on the page of family announcements and would include the date of the funeral. Your funeral director would usually help you draft and place a death notice, but would not usually get involved with helping you write an obituary.

The length of the obituary is determined on where it will be published.  In print, there is often a word limit and you might want to focus on the key information.  Online versions can be longer and with the decline of especially local newspapers, these are becoming an increasingly popular choice as they also allow people to post photos or share anecdotes about that person.

As with a eulogy, it’s often best to speak to friends and family before embarking on writing an obituary.  Gather stories and tales of their life and momentous life achievements, it’s a chance to sum up their life.  It can also be a chance to let the public know the details of the funeral, but this isn’t always the case.

Remember there is only one chance to publish an obituary so below are a few points that should be included on each obituary.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Place of Birth
  • Date of Death
  • Place of Death

At the discretion of the family, the cause of the death may be included.

You may also wish to include the following that might be relevant; where and when the deceased was born, close family members, marriages, nicknames, any military service, education, favourite songs or quotes, sporting achievements, anything they have contributed to the community and clubs/society memberships.  All of these items show moments of the person’s life and the person they had become.