How to Write an Obituary

Helpful Guide to Writing an Obituary

If your loved one passed away, you may be asking yourself, "How do I compose an obituary that truly captures your adored one’s life?"

To help, has created some simple guidelines for composing an obituary. Here are the most vital things to remember:

  1. Check with your local newspaper and/or burial funeral home.  Often times, funeral homes will provide a template to help you get started composing an obituary. Most newspapers have particular style rules or limitations on length, some just acknowledge obituaries specifically from funeral homes, and some just distribute obits composed by newspaper staff.   If you don’t follow their guidelines they will often rewrite your obituary, which could introduce errors.

    Be sure to check on the costs.  Newspapers charge by the column inch, lengthy obituaries can cost hundreds of dollars.  Most funeral homes will include a basic obit as part of the funeral package. If so, make certain they plan on e-mailing the obituary to the newspaper. This will eliminate the need for someone at the newspaper to retype it and reduce the chance of errors being introduced into the obituary.

  2. When writing the obituary, try to incorporate true life stories, as much as you feel comfortable sharing A few things you may wish to include:
    • Full name (including maiden name, nickname or some other name by which your cherished one may be recognized)
    • City and State of other residences
    • Survived by (nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, etc.)
    • Birth, marriage and death dates 
    • Reason for death
    • Surviving friends and family's names
    • Schools and Military service (if applicable)
    • Employment background
    • Participation in associations and community service (fraternities, church, etc.)
    • Favorite pastime and hobbies
    • Notable accomplishments
  3. If asking for charitable donations in lieu of flowers within the obituary, be sure to include the organizations website URL or address to make easier for loved ones and associates to make donations.   
  4. If visiting hours and funeral are public, incorporate funeral time, burial location and visitation hours. If you’re planning a private service, indicate so (for example, funeral services will be private).
  5. Plan to distribute the obituary within 1-2 days prior to the funeral services so loved ones, friends and associates can make arrangements to attend. 
  6. Be sure to have someone proof read the obituary, preferably a close family member.   Check for spelling and grammatical errors, but also make certain you didn’t leave out family members or other important family information. Try and think about how your loved one would want to be remembered.
  7. Submit the obituary to other newspapers. Include all towns where your loved one lived and had a number of family or friends. Be sure to check those newspapers' guidelines and modify the style of the obit as necessary.
  8. Check the obit when it prints in the newspaper. If there are errors, call your newspaper to let them know

Here’s a basic template you can use to help you get started writing an obituary.