Hints for Writing Obituaries

An obituary for a family member or close friend may be the most difficult thing to write. But we hope we can make it a little easier by providing these hints to guide you. It may help to check out current obituary listings to get some ideas before you start.
While every obituary is as individual as the person being memorialized, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind.

  1. Get your basic facts together such as date of birth, date of death, birth place, schools attended and names of survivors. These will form the 'frame' for your obituary. Once you have the basic information assembled, you can add details.
  2. Write the obituary in third person. In other words, you would not say "We will miss him," But "He will be missed."
  3. Accuracy is very important. Be sure names, schools, cities, etc. are spelled correctly and that dates are accurate. It's also important to be accurate in what is included, as well as what is not included. Full name, the date of birth and date of death should both be included. Be sure to mention key relatives, both living and predeceased. Proof the final version carefully – and it’s best to have someone else proof it as well.
  4. Consider your first draft a starting point.  A good test is to set aside your first finished draft for a day, and then look at it again. With the perspective of time, you probably will see improvements that can be made.

Once you've gathered your basic information, add details about the individual’s life to give readers a glimpse into their life. Instead of stating "He/she will be missed," give examples as to why. What will friends and family miss most? What was he or she passionate about? What did he or she do that touched people around them, or made them an individual?
Last of all – focus on the life lived – not the death. Remember, an obituary will stand as perhaps the only narrative record of your loved ones' life. You can be sure it reflects the person you knew and loved.