How to Write an Obituary

Four Methods:Sample ObituariesPlanning to Write the ObituaryPutting it all TogetherFinalizing the Obituary

Writing an obituary is a way to honor your loved one's life as well as to announce their death. It can be a painful process, but it's a way to celebrate your loved one's passions, achievements, and surviving family members. A typical obituary has five parts: the announcement of the death, biographical information, survivor information, scheduled ceremonies, and contributions. Losing a loved one is never easy, but writing an obituary can be easy if you follow these steps.

Sample Obituaries

Sample Obituary Asking for Donations

Sample Obituary for Younger Person

Sample Obituary for Older Person

Method 1
Planning to Write the Obituary

  1. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 1
    Make arrangements to print the obituary. Before you start writing your obituary, you should make sure that the obituary will be printed in the local paper and you have all the information. Many funeral homes offer a printed obituary in the newspaper as part of the funeral package, so if that's the case, you'll need to call the funeral home if you need more information; if not, you should call your local newspaper. Here's what you need to know:
    • The cost. Most papers charge by the inch, but the word count can vary based on the paper's font and column width, so you should ask how many words are in an inch.
    • The deadline. Most papers have a 4 or 5 p.m. deadline for obituaries, though some make exceptions because it's a delicate subject. But be careful about handing in your obituary too long after the deadline, because that may mean that the editors don't have as much time to proofread and finalize your work.
    • The date it will be printed. You'll want the obituary to be printed as soon as possible so you can not only announce the death in a timely manner but also let everyone know where and when the funeral will take place.
    • If you'd like the obituary to run in papers other than the local papers, such as national papers if the person was notable, or other local papers in a town where your loved one spent a lot of his life, then you should call those newspapers as well.
  2. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 2
    Read other obituaries. Pick up the local paper that will be printing your obituary and read as many obituaries as you can. This will give you a better sense of what a typical obituary looks like, and will also let you see if the newspaper has a certain style; it can be more formal or more free-flowing than the average paper.
    • Though there is a format for obituaries, it would help to see if your paper diverges from this format a bit or if it sticks to it rigidly, so you can match your obituary to the other ones you see. You still have some room to write what you want, but if your obituary falls outside the style guidelines of the paper, your work will be heavily edited.
  3. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 3
    Write down the basic information about the deceased. Before you write your obituary, you should write down some basic information about the person so you know what you'll have to include once you start putting the facts in sentence form. Here are some basic things to include in almost any obituary:
    • First and last name
    • Age
    • Birth date
    • Residence (city and state)
    • Partner's name
    • When and where the funeral, viewing, wake, or memorial service will take place
      • If you don't know when the funeral will take place yet, you can write the name of the funeral home so people can contact the home for more information. If you plan on running the obituary more than once, you can include this information the next time if you know it then.
  4. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 4
    Write down some additional information. After you've written down the basics, you can write down some additional information about the person that can give more insight into who he was as an individual. Here are some things you may want to include:[1]
    • The names and residences of the person's children.
    • The names of the person's grandchildren. If there are many grandchildren, you can just say how many there are instead of listing all of their names.
    • The names of the person's parents. If the parents are deceased, you can say that the person you're writing about is "the son of the late John Smith."
    • Some information about the person's education. You can write the name of the person's high school, college, and even graduate school if it's applicable.
    • Information about the person's vocation. You can write down the person's profession or even where he worked.
    • The person's hobbies. If the person loved fishing, then write it down. If he just did it occasionally to pass the time, then it isn't necessary.
    • The names of any beloved pets of the deceased.
    • The birthplace of the deceased, or the names of other places where he lived if they were important to him.
    • Some information or anecdotes that show the person's quirks or personality traits.
    • Information about how the person died. If the person died in a particularly gruesome way or by suicide, you may want to use your discretion, but if the person died in a major catastrophe, at war, or after battling a long illness, you may want to include it.

Method 2
Putting it all Together

  1. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 5
    Announce the death. The opening is one sentence that gives basic information about who the person was and when he died. You can decide whether you want to mention where specifically the person died and if his family was there. If you do choose to mention the cause of death, then you can do that at the end of this first sentence. Here's what it should look like:[2]
    • (Name),(age), of (residence) died (passed away, or a word with a similar meaning), (date).
    • Example: "Sandra Smith, 70, of Santa Monica, died Mar. 12, 2013, with her family by her side."
  2. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 6
    Provide biographical information. This paragraph should provide some basic biographical information about the person, such as where he was born, his educational background, and information about his marital life (if there is any). Here's what it should look like:
    • (He/she) was born (place, date of birth, parents). (Name) graduated from (high school name) and received (name of degree) from (name of college). (He/she) was married to (spouse's name) (time of marriage optional).
    • Example: "She was born to the late Samuel and Sally Jones, Apr. 12, 1943, in Springfield, Illinois. Sandra graduated from John Adams High School in 1961 and received a BA in in History from the University of Illinois in 1965. She married the late Jackson Smith in 1966, and they lived together in Springfield for twenty years before relocating to Santa Monica."
  3. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 7
    Write additional information (optional). If you'd like to expand your obituary to include more information about the deceased, then you should do so in the next paragraph or two mini-paragraphs. Try to think of three adjectives to describe the person, and make this come through in your description of the person's life. Rather than saying the person was generous, show how the person demonstrated the charitable behavior. [3]
    • The format for these parts is less rigid since it all depends on what you want to include.
    • Example: "Sandra was a librarian until she retired in 2008. She was passionate about helping the students in the library, and about spreading her love for reading throughout her community. She was honored with the Santa Monica Librarian of the Year award in 1995."
    • Example: "She was an avid golfer, and spent most of her Saturday and Sunday mornings at the course with her friends. She loved hiking, biking, and running, and ran ten marathons in her lifetime."
  4. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 8
    Provide survivor information. You should list the names of the person's children, grandchildren, and other important family members. You should include the residence of these family members and separate the names of each person with a semi-colon. Remember that if there are many grandchildren instead of just one or two, that listing the number is more appropriate.
    • Example: "Sandra is survived by three children: Jenny Gray, of Springfield; Mark Smith, of Philadelphia; and Jessie Adams, of Chicago. She is also survived by ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren."
  5. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 9
    Provide information about the funeral arrangements. In the last part of the obituary, you should write the time, date, and place where the service will be held, and let people know if your family would prefer guests to make a donation to a charity that the deceased supported instead of sending flowers. Here's how to write it:
    • Example: "Instead of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Brunswick Homeless Shelter."
    • Example: "A viewing will be held at 6. p.m. Saturday at the Santa Clara Funeral Home. The burial will take place at 1 p.m. at the Santa Monica cemetery."

Method 3
Finalizing the Obituary

  1. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 10
    Revise the obituary. Once you've put your obituary together, you should read it over to make sure that it suits your needs. Through revision, you'll be able to trim down any wordy phrases, note places where you could add information, and see if a sentence or two could be eliminated altogether.
    • When you revise your work, ask yourself what your loved one would think of the obituary. Would he feel that you captured who he was and what his passions were?
    • Make sure that you were honoring the person's life instead of focusing on his death. The obituary should read like a quiet celebration of all the things the person has done and all of the lives that he touched.
    • Remember those three words you thought would best describe the person. Do those words shine through in what you've written?
    • Make sure that your thoughts are clearly communicated. Are all of the sentences clear and unambiguous?
    • Avoid any fancy words that may muddle your meaning. Your obituary should be respectful and simple.
  2. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 11
    Ask for feedback. Once you've revised your work, you should ask for the feedback of another person who knew the loved one well, because this can give you a better sense of what you've accomplished in the obituary. If you're really feeling uncertain about your work, then you can ask for feedback before the revision stage. Here's why getting some feedback can be helpful:
    • Having another person close to the loved one look at your work can give you a better sense of whether you've truly captured the essence of that person.
    • Another pair of eyes can also be helpful because another person can help you see if you've forgotten something important, like one of the person's favorite hobbies, or the names of one of his children.
  3. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 12
    Proofread your work. Once you've revised your work and received some feedback, you should look over your work one more time before you send your obituary to the funeral home. This will help you get rid of any grammatical or punctuation mistakes.
    • Try reading your work aloud to make sure that the sentences flow smoothly and that there aren't any words that are out of place.
  4. Image titled Write an Obituary Step 13
    Submit your obituary. After you've finished writing the obituary, all you have to do is send it to either the funeral home or directly to the newspaper. You should have the obituary typed, and you should send it in electronic form if this is acceptable. This is a great way to minimize errors and to make sure that your obituary gets to the right place quickly.
    • However you choose to submit your obituary, you should make sure that it was received promptly.


  • Some newspapers now charge for obituaries but offer free death notices. The funeral home will make that information available to family members.
  • You might want to publish the obituary in more than one newspaper, especially if your loved one lived in different parts of the country over the years. There might also be community, city-wide, and national papers in your loved one's area. Papers with higher circulation will charge more for the obituary.
  • Most funeral homes will have a form available for family members to complete. The funeral home will provide that obituary information to the media. Include all family information for the funeral home, such as where survivors currently reside. Newspapers like to include this information in obituaries whenever possible.
  • Some people are very close to their pets. Include this in their "survived by" section at the end. This should be tasteful and only included if the person is known for his love of his pet.
  • When noting a person's education, take into consideration where the obituary will be placed and how old the person was when he died. For younger people, indicate the elementary, junior, and high school they attended as well as college. For older people, just high school, college, and any graduate schools would work.


  • Be tactful. Do not include where the body is going. Nobody will want to view a cremation, for example.
  • Use discretion when announcing the reason of death. If it is too gruesome, such as impalement in a car crash, do not mention it.

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