How to write an obituary

The best obituary is not the one full of accolades, tons of pictures, or the longest paragraphs. Writing a tribute to the unique and precious life of a person you knew and loved and is an opportunity to share the things they valued. The most meaningful obituary is the one that connects to the lives of others because it tells a human story. The obituary is a true reflection of the life lived that speaks fairly to the values, relationships and legacy of your loved one.

Life Summary

The most significant part of writing an obituary is to highlight your loved one’s life story. This is the essence of the obituary and it can include personal quirks, favorite moments, and special ways your loved one shared their life with others.

Carefully selecting events that are emblematic of their values, priorities and passions can help to paint a richer picture of who they were.

Here are some examples to write about:

  • The beauty of their life
  • Your fondest memories
  • Their character qualities you loved the most and those you loved the least
  • The depth of their impact on others
  • How they inspired you
  • Their significant accomplishments
  • The perspective their life gave to you and others

This may not come easily to you, but the effort and heart put into its creation will be a reward and gift to yourself, your loved one, and the community that loved them.

Announcement of the Death

Obituaries usually begin with the name, age, and place of residence of the deceased, along with the date and place of death.

The cause of death is something many families wonder if they should include. This is a personal decision that does not have a right or wrong answer. It is wise to keep in mind that sharing the information here may spare you and other family members from having to repeat the story of what happened over and over at subsequent gatherings.

Family

Naming the surviving family members is a way of naming the legacy and (some of) the lives impacted by the deceased. If you choose to include surviving family members, be sure to take great care when compiling your list so that no one is forgotten. Some families also choose to list family members who preceded your loved one in death.

A general format to follow when listing relatives is to list survivors first, starting with the spouse, then children, grandchildren (if there are a lot of grandchildren you can simply list how many there are), parents and siblings. Usually, other relations are left out but may be mentioned by phrases like, “and their large extended family,” or “along with a close-knit group of friends.”

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If you like to be technical, names should be listed as follows: first name, spouse’s first name in parenthesis, then surname (ex: Tom (Sarah) Johnson). If the spouse or partner’s surname is different, include their surname in the parenthesis along with their first name (ex: Tom (Sarah Williams) Johnson).

Service Times

For each of the ceremonies being held it is important that the following information is listed for each event: time (am or pm), full date, and name and address of ceremony location. If some of the ceremonies will be private then it would be best to not list them publicly in the obituary.

*Spelling tip: “interment” is the correct spelling for a graveside or burial ceremony, not “internment”.

Concluding Message

In the conclusion of the obituary, special requests may be made such as, “in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to…” or “Our heartfelt thanks to the staff at General Hospital for…”

Some families make the final line a dedication honoring their loved one. Phrases like “We will always carry your memory in our hearts,” or perhaps a favorite quote of your loved one are heartfelt and personal. Other families select a short prayer, a religious quotation, or a line from a poem to place at the end. While these messages are optional, they help to conclude the obituary and offer a final space to further personalize your tribute.

Photos

Including a photo is often meaningful to families and can be a useful way for readers to recognize your loved one. For that reason, it is suggested to use a more recent photograph. This choice is special and entirely up to what you think best represents your loved one and whatever photograph is chosen will be a fitting tribute. You have the opportunity to add multiple photos on the obituary on the O’Connor Mortuary website.

Submitting the Obituary to O’Connor Mortuary

When you have finished writing your obituary, simply email it to our design specialist, Rosemary, at [email protected] and CC your O’Connor Mortuary funeral arranger. Rosemary will contact you when your complimentary obituary has been posted to our website. If you choose to submit the obituary to other publications, Rosemary is able to assist you with that as well.

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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.

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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.

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