Short Explanation How to Write an Obituary

An obituary is an announcement published when an individual passes away. This is simple obituary definition. It contains the details like name and age of the person, from where he/she belonged to, memories of his/her life and the love he/she has spread to the people around. It also notifies about the rituals and services to be performed after the death of an individual.

What is an obituary?

Generally, it is a farewell that you and your family members will keep as a memory, so it has to be crafted carefully. It can contain the details about the life and nature of the person and how joyful he/she had made other people’s lives. This is the obituary meaning detailing everything about the deceased person.

It’s conventionally used to inform your community and well-wishers about the passing your loved one. It’s an indirect call for the support you will be needing from your relatives, friends and the community in the days, weeks and the months coming ahead. The obituary will also be announcing the date and time of visitation, services, and other final rituals.

What is the obituary format?

Generally, an obituary by definition should contain certain information, i.e. the announcement that your loved one has passed away, the deceased individual’s personal details, names of the family members and close relatives, schedule of the ceremonies etc. It is not easy to write an obituary because of the pain of losing your loved one. So the steps given in this article will help you if you carefully follow them.

Preparing for writing an obituary

The obituary is to be printed in the local newspapers, you should make sure for the same and have all the information ready. Many funeral service providers offer the printing of obituary in local newspapers as part of the package. So you will need to coordinate with them to ensure that it doesn’t miss any important information.

If it’s not included in the package, you can call the newspaper office and get necessary information before you write the obituary. The information you should know will be:

  1. How much they charge. Generally, the papers charge per inch, but you should also consider the word counts as the paper’s font style and size, as well as the column width, will vary. So ask how many words can be included in an inch.
  2. Consider the deadline of the paper. This is because you have to submit the obituary within the deadline in order to get it printed. However, you may get it printed even if you submit late, but then you should not submit a long text as the editor will not have much to proofread it.
  3. The date you want the obituary printed. You would want to inform everybody about the death and time and place of the funeral. So you should prepare and submit the obituary as soon as possible.
  4. Call the paper if it’s not local. If the deceased person is popular in a larger area or has spent his considerable time in another town, you should contact the newspapers of related towns to get it printed on them in a timely manner.

Read the obituaries in the local papers

To know how an obituary is printed in your local newspapers. Particularly to know how a typical obituary is written. You can also observe the style of the paper, whether it’s free-flowing or formal. It will act as an obituary template for you.

There is a common format of obituary normally followed by most of the newspaper. But you should check if a paper is printing with a different style or strictly follow a format. Though you can write it in your words, you should match it with the guidelines being followed by the newspaper in order to avoid too much editing.

Have basic details about the individual ready

You should have some basic details like deceased person’s full name, date of birth and age, the city of residence and state, partner’s name etc. You should also have the information about the location and time of the funeral ceremony and other memorial services etc.

If you don’t know when and where the funeral will be arranged, you can mention the name of the funeral home so that the people can get more information from there. If you are going to publish the obituary more than once, you can mention the date and time of the funeral in later prints when you know about it.

Include additional information

Add some additional information about the deceased person after you have the basic details written. This is to let concerned people know more about the individual, i.e. how he was as a person. You can mention the names of the person’s family members, the information about their current residence, the names of the person’s parents and if they are living or deceased. If they are deceased, you can write like “The son of the late John Smith”.

You can also add the person’s educational information along with the names of school, college, and university he attended. Write down what profession he was having or where he was working. What were his hobbies and what did he like to do in his free time? Whether he was having any close friends or having any pat whom he loved the most.

His personality traits and nature would be the most important things to be included in the obituary. Also mention how that person died if he did due to a long illness, an accident, catastrophe or war. You may skip mentioning the reason if it is gruesome or not good to be mentioned publicly.

Also, mention his birthplace and the places he lived for years and if he loved any place the most.

Actually writing an obituary

Once you have all the basic details ready, you can finally create an obituary outline to be published in the newspapers.

The announcement of the death

Beginning with the name, place of residence and the date and time of the death of the person, there can be many ways of the announcement of death, depending on how the death has occurred. People use different words for the same meaning, and you can too use your words to say this. Some of the various words people use are “died”, “Passed away”, “Left the world forever to be with God”, “Attained an ultimate form” etc.

If you want to mention how the death occurred, you can add it to the end of the first line. It can be written as shown below.

[Name of the deceased person], of [residence] died [or passed away or a similar word] [date], [cause of death]

Biographical information

In this part, you have to mention the person’s birthplace, educational information, achievements in life, professional or vocational information, interests, and hobbies etc. It should be a short paragraph with the most important biographical information.

Survivors information

This part contains the name of the family members as well as the members who predeceased the person who has passed away.

This section of the obituary generally includes the names of the parents, life partner, children with the information of their spouses and children if there are, adopted children if any, grandchildren, stepchildren if any, siblings, surviving in-laws.

The close family members should be mentioned with their name, but other relatives can be mentioned with the relation name, i.e. she passed away leaving four grandchildren, three nephews, three nieces. An example, “Natasha is survived by two children, John Smith, of Springfield and Rachel Adams, of Chicago. She also survived by four grandchildren, three nephews, and three nieces.

Mention additional information

You can include additional information if you think necessary and if space allows as this is optional. It can contain some more information about the deceased person’s life. It can be any special services or social activities undertaken by that person. This part of the obituary can be written and define in an informal style.

Funeral arrangements information

This section contains an important part of the obituary, i.e. the date and time of the ceremonies and other services, places where it will be held etc. For example, “A viewing will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Springfield Funeral Home and the burial will take place at 2 p.m. at the Springfield cemetery.

You can mention whether the family would like the guests to make the donation instead of sending the flowers. For example “We, the family of Natasha Smith, request the guests to please donate to the Springfield Homeless Shelter instead of giving flowers”.

Re-read the obituary and revise if needed

Once you are done with writing the obituary with all the necessary information mentioned, read it again to make sure that everything is perfect. By reviewing it, you will be able to find out if anything is written incorrectly. Also, you can have a chance to correct if there is any spelling mistake or grammatical error done in the writing.

Also, make sure that what you have written is easy to read and conveys the information clearly without any ambiguity. Check that the words clearly describe the person and are honoring the person’s life and not just focused on his death. The obituary should be a clear expression of what the person has done in his life that made him a special person in the lives of the family, relatives, and friends.

Ensure that the obituary is written in simple and respectful words instead of fancy words that change the meaning and relevance. It should communicate your thoughts and information clearly. You can also read some of the best obituaries online. It will help you ensure that the one you have written is perfect in all terms.

Ask another person to read and give feedback

Once the obituary is reviewed and revised, you can ask a person who is close to the person who has passed away to check and provide the feedback. This is because that person will be better able to ensure that whatever you have written about the deceased person in the obituary is correct and reflects his or her life.

Asking for the feedback from a close family member will help you make sure that you have not missed anything and have not included anything irrelevant. That the names of the family members and children are correctly mentioned along with their residential information.

Submit the obituary

After you have a well-written, revised and proofread obituary, you can send it to the funeral home. If the funeral home is not proving the printing in the service package, you should directly send it to the local and national newspapers.

It is good if you have it typed to avoid any mistake at the newspaper. This will ensure that your obituary will be printed without any mistake and within time. Make sure the newspaper receive the obituary in time. You can call them and confirm the receipt so that it gets printed quickly.

A few obituary examples

To provide you further help with writing an obituary, we have given a sample.

Natasha Smith

Natasha Smith, 82, of Springfield, passed away on May 27, 2018, with her family by her side.

Born to the late Peter and Sidney Smith, Jan. 19, 1936, in Springfield, Illinois. She was a woman with a noble heart. She had her schooling from John Adams High School in 1954 and had a degree of BA in literature from the University of Illinois in 1958.

She was a great person, a successful writer and a cook with a great sense of the taste. She loved spending her extra time reading and writing, but would never miss the chance to cook something delicious when the children are at home. In fact, she had taken part in many cooking competitions and won the first prizes. She was having a great feeling and love for the children and had been regularly offering donations to the Springfield homeless children care center.

Natasha is survived by her two children, John Smith, who stayed with her in Springfield and Rachel Adams, residing in Chicago. She also survived by four cute and loving grandchildren, three caring nephews and three joyful nieces.

A viewing will be arranged at 5:30 p.m. at the Springfield Funeral Home. The final rituals and ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at the Springfield cemetery.

So in lieu of flowers, the guests are requested to please make a donation for the homeless children in the Springfield Homeless Shelter or the charity foundation their choice.

Also please have a look at some samples of obituaries, from the links given below.