How to Write an Obituary
What's involved in writing a good obituary? That's really the first thing you have to think about when sitting down to write one for a spouse, other family members, or a close friend. Exactly what factual information should it include and how can you find a balance between dry facts and engaging storytelling? We have the answers to those questions and hope you will find this information abouthow to write an obituary helpful.
What's the Difference between an Obituary and a Death Notice?
The obituary is a longer, more detailed look at the life of the deceased and the death notice is merely a compilation of relevant facts. The obituary also includes those essential details but it expands on them to provide a more complete look at the deceased's life experiences. The first of the details would, of course, be their name.
Here's a tip: If she was a married woman, you'll want to include her maiden name and if he or she was commonly known by a nickname, you may want to add that as well.
Other essential details to include when writing either a death notice or an obituary are:
Their age upon death
A list of the surviving relatives
The date of death
The location (city/state) where they died
Details about the funeral service: date, time, place
Date of death
Where the person lived
You may find it useful to learn about the cultural and historical value of obituaries. A hundred years from now, social historians will find the obituaries we craft today very useful so it's imperative that we write obituaries that accurately document the facts, while providing other valuable information about the day-to-day life led by the deceased.To discover how valuable obituaries can be in social or historical study, we invite you to read Michelle Harper's online article, "Reading the Lives of Women through Their Obituaries: With Tips for Searching in Historical Newspapers".
We think it benefits the families we serve when we remind them of the simple truth: in writing an obituary for your loved one, you have the opportunity to serve future generations – not only of your immediate family but of the society as a whole. You are, in effect, recording history on an individual scale. It's a humbling yet inspiring thought; at least we think so.
It's very easy to find examples of obituaries that are worthy of attention. There are interesting obituaries for everyday folks that inspire us; maybe even make us cry or laugh. Obituaries which, when we're done reading them, we say to ourselves, "I wish I'd had a chance to get to know that person." Obituaries are scattered in cyberspace, acting as digital records of a life, a time, and a place. Before you start writing, you may enjoy reading and becoming inspired by some of the obituaries below:
"The World's Most Interesting Obituary"
"This Woman's Obituary is the Best Thing You'll Read Today"
"Georgia Man's Colorful Obituary is Hilarious, Heartwarming and Surely Not All True"
Recently, some very funny obituaries have been written including the one penned by Walter George Bruhl, Junior who also happened to be the deceased. Discover how this man's obituary affected readers from around the world: "A Grandfather Wrote this Moving and Funny Obituary about Himself Before He Died".
Will writing our own obituaries become a trend? Maybe. We know many more people are writing their own obituaries today as it's often given as an assignment in certain college and university courses.
Is an obituary ever the right place to vent your anger? One woman's family thought so. In David Knowles' Daily News online article, "The Most Scathing Obituary in History? Children of Abuse Mother Hold Nothing Back," you'll discover how they chose to educate their community – and the world - about horrors of child abuse. We do not advocate writing an obituary like this one; we merely wanted to share the flexibility you have and how you can write an obituary that does more than simply share the story of a life. You can, as this family did, write with a hidden agenda for social change.
How you document your loved one's life story is up to you. With that said, we recommend that in addition to the eleven facts of a death notice listed above, the enhanced death notice known as an obituary would also include these details:
If married, information about the spouse and children
Job or career information
Personal and professional accomplishments
Personal character and interests
Influence on his or her community
It's now time to push the facts aside. Sit back and think about the anecdotes and memories you could share to shed some light on your loved one's character and personal interests. Bring factual details into play whenever you can to help the reader (now or one hundred years from now) clearly see who your loved one was, how they lived, what they did, who and what they loved. The more rich in detail, the more memorable the obituary becomes.
Double Check Spelling and Grammar
Before you give a copy of the final draft of your loved one's obituary, be sure to read it through twice or even three times. You're looking for errors in spelling and grammar but you also want to make sure your facts are straight. If your grandfather flew a plane in the Navy during WWI, make sure you got the correct service dates and confirmed the name and location of his squadron.
Don't Hesitate to Call Us
We would be happy to proofread the obituary and can offer some suggestions if you're stuck. Call us at (440) 942-0700 to discover how we can help you to shine a brighter spotlight on their life.