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Featured FAQ: How Do I Write an Obituary?

September 15, 2017

The obituary page of a newspaper is one of the most well-read sections of the paper because the obituaries feature people that the readers knew and loved or were important to the community. An obituary is a significant record not only for the death and funeral notice but as documentation of a life lived. It is a vital historical record as well, especially when researching family genealogy.

Photo credit: alexmillos/

When writing an obituary, it’s critical to state the facts accurately as well as provide an account of the person’s life, accomplishments and personality. Many people save obituaries as a remembrance of someone who was important to them, so make sure that the obituary you write is deserving of the person’s memory.

What’s the Difference Between an Obituary and a Death Notice?

A death notice is a paid announcement, or classified advertisement, in a newspaper that is usually written by the family or funeral home. It publicizes that the person has died and provides information on the funeral or memorial services, biographical information on the deceased and their relations, as well as where donations can be made in the name of the person who died. The cost of running a death notice often varies by length, so inquire about the ‘line rate’ for each paper in which you want to print the notice. A photograph of the deceased can also be provided to be placed with the text, usually for an additional charge. You can even write multiple versions in order to publish the basic information as a paid classified in a newspaper and to provide a more detailed obituary for family and friends.

An obituary is an editorial article written by a journalist announcing a person’s death and offering a detailed biography of the person who died. In most large cities and prominent newspapers, obituaries are written mostly for people who are famous or considered significant in some way. However, local newspapers may publish an obituary for any local resident. Families can either submit a request to have an obituary written about the person who died or provide an obituary that they have written in advance, although the editor ultimately decides whether to publish the story.

Step-by-step Guide

There are essential items to provide the newspaper including the notice of a death and funeral arrangements; a record of the extended family – both living and dead; an acknowledgment to those who helped; a request for memorial donations, and most importantly, a fascinating life story. It is critical to be accurate with spelling, birth and death dates, times and place of memorials and names of relatives. The key to accuracy is to proofread, proofread, proofread!

Important things to include:

  • Announcement:
    • Full name of the deceased, including nickname, if any
    • Age at death
    • Residence (for example, the name of the city) at death. Be careful not to give a full address to avoid advertising an empty house during the funeral or providing information for identity theft.
    • Day and date of death (remember to include the year)
    • Place of death
    • Cause of death
  • Biographical Information: Significant events in the life of the deceased. This may include:
    • Date and place of birth
    • Names of parents, children, grandchildren, etc.
    • Childhood: siblings, stories, schools, friends
    • Marriage(s): date of, place, name of spouse
    • Education: school, college, university and other
    • Designations, awards, and other recognition
    • Employment: jobs, activities, colleagues, promotions, union activities
    • Military service
    • Places of residence
    • Hobbies, sports, interests, activities, and other enjoyment
    • Charitable, religious, fraternal, political, and other affiliations; positions held
    • Achievements
    • Unusual attributes, humor, other stories


  • Family members: Survived by (and place of residence) and Predeceased by (and date of death):
    • Spouse
    • Children (in order of date of birth) and children’s spouses
    • Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren
    • Siblings (in order of date of birth)
    • Others, such as nephews, nieces, cousins, in-laws, friends
    • Pets
  • Funeral service or Memorial service:
    • Day, date, time, place
    • Name of officiant, pallbearers, honorary pallbearers, other information
    • Visitation information: day, date, time, place
    • Reception information: day, date, time, place
    • Other memorial, vigil, or graveside services: day, date, time, place
    • Place of interment
    • Name of funeral home in charge of arrangements
    • Where to call for more information (even if no service planned)
  • Additional information:
    • Memorial funds established
    • Memorial donation suggestions, including addresses
    • Thank you to people, groups, or institutions

For more information

There are several websites that provide templates, sample obituaries and checklists to help you organize, write and edit an obituary or death notice:

Obituary Template

Obituary checklist

Obituary guide

For more information or assistance in writing an obituary, please contact us at any of our locations or call our main office at 1-800-Keohane (800-536-4263) to meet with one of our experienced funeral directors.


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