How to Write an Obituary – Read the Obituary Column

Reading the obituaries on a regular basis in our newspaper I have some definite ideas about what I like and what I don’t like in an obituary. If you are not a reader of obituaries and someone you love has just died and it has fallen to you to write an obituary, you will have to learn a few things about obituaries or as they are sometimes called, death notices.

I read the obituaries not because I am fascinated by death or even because I am expecting to see someone I know in the columns No, I read them because I love reading about a person’s life. I like to read the little snapshots about someone’s life. I have also learned how to write an obituary by reading these columns.

The obituary shows a little slice of life. I find it interesting to read about people. Because I have read so many I would like to share with you what I like and don’t like to help you learn how to write an obituary.

Some obituaries are too short. They are simply death notices. John brown died on August 1. There will be no service by request. What a disservice that is doing not only the person who has died but also friends and family who are left behind to mourn. Who was this person who lived here on this earth for 70 or 80 years?

I like to see a picture of the person. I think it is quite neat when it is a picture taken from a special part of their life. It doesn’t have to show the person at the age that they died in my opinion. Use a picture that gives glory to them. I have seen pictures of a young glamorous girl in a bygone era. What a treat to see that.

You don’t have to give the dates of their birth and death if you are worried about unscrupulous characters using the dates to steal your beloved’s identity. But when you write an obituary, do tell the reader how old the person was. It helps to explain and honor their life. I like to know where the person was born but an exact location is, once again, not absolutely necessary. John was born in Ireland 87 years ago. Or John spent his whole life in Indiana leaving only when he was fighting in the Vietnam War.

Many people want to tell who died in the family before and who is surviving. That is a nice way of honoring others in the family. It also helps the reader because they may know John’s sister and it alerts them to the fact that their friend, neighbor, or coworker has a brother who has just died. Now they can send a card or get in touch with her to give her their condolences. In some cases the reader may even want to attend the funeral to lend their support.

Some people write an obituary and make it too long. I am not big on reading lists of accomplishments but I do like to read a story or two about the life of the person. It gives me a picture of who they were. Too much information however makes me think that the writer doesn’t know the difference between writing a eulogy and writing an obituary. It makes me think the writer needs to take a course on how to write an obituary.

The other purpose for writing an obituary is to let the readers know the details of when and where the funeral or memorial service is, where the reader can send donations in the deceased’s name. Don’t leave out any of these details if you are writing an obituary for your local newspaper. If this is being placed on an internet site in memoriam then these details are not so important.

Who helped the deceased in the last days of their life? This is often an appropriate place to publicly thank them. Nurses, doctors, paramedics, hospice workers and volunteers are examples of who you might want to thank when you write an obituary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *