How to Write an Obituary: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write an Obituary

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In the delicate moments following the passing of a loved one, the task of learning how to write an obituary may seem overwhelming. Expressing a lifetime within a few paragraphs requires both care and skill. This guide aims to offer a compassionate hand during this challenging time, providing a step-by-step approach on how to write an obituary. By following these gentle guidelines, anyone can create a heartfelt tribute that honors the departed while offering solace to those left behind. Let’s embark on this journey together, navigating the intricacies of memorializing a life with grace and respect.

Understanding the Purpose of an Obituary

An obituary serves as a poignant snapshot, encapsulating the essence of an individual’s existence. In navigating how to write an obituary, comprehending its purpose is fundamental. It goes beyond a mere announcement of the passing; rather, it’s an opportunity to weave a narrative that celebrates a life lived. Typically published in newspapers, online platforms, or distributed during memorial services, obituaries play a crucial role in communicating the news of a death while also serving as a collective remembrance. With a profound understanding of its purpose, one can approach the writing process with a thoughtful perspective, ensuring that the essence of the departed is beautifully preserved.

How to Write an Obituary

Gathering Essential Information

Before penning the tribute, it’s vital to gather the essential details that will form the foundation of the obituary. Begin with the basics: full name, date of birth, and date of passing. Include pertinent information such as the city or town of residence, and if applicable, the cause of death. These key elements provide the factual framework for the tribute. Additionally, delve into the individual’s achievements, hobbies, and significant life events. Understanding how to write an obituary involves weaving these details seamlessly, creating a narrative that not only informs but also resonates emotionally with readers. This stage sets the groundwork for a heartfelt remembrance that captures the true spirit of the departed.

Choosing the Right Tone and Style

Crafting an obituary necessitates a delicate balance between formality and warmth. Knowing how to write an obituary involves considering the personality of the departed and the preferences of grieving family and friends. Opt for a tone that reflects the individual’s character, whether it’s a solemn and traditional style or a more casual and celebratory approach. Be mindful of the emotions involved, expressing condolences while also celebrating a life well-lived. This is not merely a recounting of facts but a tribute that resonates emotionally. Understanding the appropriate tone ensures that the obituary becomes a touching memorial, capturing the essence of the person it commemorates.

How to Write an Obituary: Structuring the Obituary

Assembling the obituary with a thoughtful structure is key to conveying the story effectively. Begin with a compelling headline, succinctly summarizing the essence of the tribute. Follow this with the vital statistics – name, birth and death dates – to anchor the reader. The body of the obituary then unfolds like a narrative, chronicling the individual’s life journey. When contemplating how to write an obituary, consider grouping information logically – childhood, education, career, family, and achievements. Maintain a chronological flow, offering a seamless progression through the stages of their life. This structure not only aids readability but also ensures that each aspect is given due consideration, providing a comprehensive overview of the departed soul.

Crafting a Thoughtful Introduction

The introduction serves as the emotional doorway to the obituary, setting the tone for the entire piece. Knowing how to write an obituary introduction involves delicately balancing solemnity and warmth. Begin by acknowledging the loss and expressing condolences to the grieving family and friends. Share a brief glimpse into the departed’s personality or a notable characteristic, providing an immediate connection with the reader. This initial touch creates a compassionate atmosphere, inviting readers to engage with the tribute emotionally. A well-crafted introduction, rooted in empathy, ensures that the obituary becomes a heartfelt homage rather than a mere announcement of departure.

Highlighting Achievements and Contributions

Celebrating the achievements and contributions of the departed is a vital aspect of composing an obituary. Consider their professional accomplishments, educational milestones, and any notable accolades. Discuss their contributions to the community, career, or family life, providing a comprehensive picture of their impact on the world around them. When pondering how to write an obituary, this segment becomes a canvas to paint the legacy left behind. Share specific anecdotes or accomplishments that showcase the individual’s unique qualities, fostering a sense of pride and admiration among readers.

Including Personal Anecdotes and Stories

Infusing the obituary with personal anecdotes and stories adds a touch of intimacy, offering readers a more profound connection to the departed. Consider sharing anecdotes that encapsulate their personality, quirks, or memorable life moments. This step in how to write an obituary transforms the tribute into a living narrative, breathing life into the memory of the individual. Whether it’s a humorous escapade, a heartwarming gesture, or a defining life event, these personal snippets allow readers to reminisce and celebrate the unique essence of the person being honored.

Addressing Family and Relationships

In the intricacies of learning how to write an obituary, acknowledging the departed’s family and relationships is a crucial step. Extend condolences to immediate family members and express gratitude for the support and love shared throughout the individual’s life. Mention surviving family members, such as children, grandchildren, or close friends, offering a glimpse into the network of relationships that defined the departed’s world. This section serves as a tribute not only to the individual but also to the bonds that enriched their journey. It is a testament to the interconnected tapestry of life and love.

Notable Quotes and Sayings

Integrating notable quotes or sayings into the obituary provides an opportunity to capture the essence of the departed in their own words. Whether it’s a favorite mantra, a piece of wisdom, or a humorous remark, these quotes add a personal touch to the tribute. When contemplating how to write an obituary, consider the phrases that resonate with the individual’s character. Incorporating such snippets not only honors their voice but also allows readers to connect with the sentiments that held significance in the departed’s life. It becomes a subtle yet powerful way to keep their spirit alive through the enduring power of words.

Conveying Funeral and Memorial Service Details

Guiding readers on the practical aspects of bidding farewell is an essential component when understanding how to write an obituary. Provide details regarding the funeral or memorial service, including the date, time, and location. Mention any specific requests from the family, such as preferred attire or charitable donations in lieu of flowers. This information ensures that those who wish to pay their respects can do so appropriately. When writing this section of the obituary, maintain a clear and concise tone, offering a roadmap for those who want to participate in honoring the departed in a meaningful way.

Proofreading and Seeking Feedback

Once the initial draft of the obituary is crafted, the next crucial step in how to write an obituary involves thorough proofreading. Check for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and ensure that the tone is consistent throughout. Reading it aloud can help identify any awkward phrasing or areas that may need refinement. Additionally, consider seeking feedback from close friends or family members who can provide valuable insights. This collaborative approach ensures that the obituary is a true reflection of the departed’s spirit and resonates authentically with those who knew them best.

Publishing the Obituary

Understanding how to write an obituary is incomplete without knowing the proper channels for publication. Coordinate with local newspapers, online platforms, and funeral homes to ensure the obituary reaches the intended audience. Be mindful of deadlines for newspaper submissions and any specific guidelines each platform may have. In the digital age, consider creating an online memorial where friends and family can share condolences and memories. By navigating the intricacies of publication, the obituary becomes a lasting tribute, reaching a broad audience and serving as a collective space for mourning and reminiscence.

Embracing the Power of Remembrance

The act of writing an obituary is more than a mere task; it is a profound opportunity to embrace the power of remembrance. As the words come together to tell the story of a life lived, they become a vessel for collective mourning, celebration, and healing. Knowing how to write an obituary involves recognizing the significance of this process in preserving the legacy of the departed. It is a testament to the enduring impact one person can have on the world and a gesture that allows their memory to echo through the annals of time.


Mastering how to write an obituary is an art that blends compassion, storytelling, and careful consideration. From gathering essential information to selecting the right tone, structuring the narrative, and incorporating personal touches, each step contributes to a heartfelt tribute. Addressing family and relationships, sharing anecdotes, and conveying service details guide readers through a poignant journey. Proofreading, seeking feedback, and navigating the publishing process ensure that the obituary becomes a fitting remembrance. Ultimately, by embracing the power of remembrance, one can create a timeless tribute that honors a life and offers solace to those left behind.


What information should be included in an obituary?

An obituary typically includes essential details like the full name, date of birth, and date of passing. Additional information encompasses the city or town of residence, cause of death, and significant life events, achievements, and contributions.

How long should an obituary be?

While there’s no strict rule, most obituaries range from 200 to 400 words. It’s essential to balance brevity with inclusivity, capturing the essence of the individual without overwhelming readers.

Can I add a touch of humor to an obituary?

Yes, incorporating humor is a personal choice and can be a beautiful way to celebrate the individual’s lighter side. However, it’s crucial to gauge the appropriateness based on the departed’s personality and the preferences of grieving family and friends.

Is there a specific format for writing an obituary?

While there’s no rigid format, a common structure involves a headline, vital statistics, chronological life events, family details, and funeral service information. Tailoring the format to reflect the individual’s unique story is key.

Can I include religious or cultural elements in an obituary?

Absolutely. Including religious or cultural elements is a thoughtful way to honor the individual’s beliefs and traditions. Ensure that such references are respectful and align with the departed’s worldview.

Should I share the cause of death in the obituary?

The decision to include the cause of death is personal and should respect the wishes of the family. Some choose to share it, while others prefer not to. Always communicate with the family to determine their preference.

How soon after a death should an obituary be published?

Obituaries are typically published within a few days of the passing. It’s advisable to check with local newspapers and online platforms for submission deadlines and guidelines.

Can I include a photo in the obituary?

Yes, adding a photo is a touching way to visually commemorate the departed. Choose a clear, high-quality image that reflects their personality.

Is it necessary to publish the obituary in a newspaper?

While not mandatory, publishing in a local newspaper ensures a wider reach within the community. Online platforms and social media are also popular alternatives for sharing obituaries.

Can I make changes to the obituary after it’s published?

Once an obituary is published, changes may be challenging. It’s crucial to proofread thoroughly and seek feedback before submission to avoid any errors or omissions.

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