How to Write a Great Obituary: Guidelines, Template & Tips

People often write an obituary after the passing of a loved one. These pieces can be shared online or published in the local paper. If you have never written one before, you may wonder how to write an obituary that best describes the person. Here is a useful guide to help you get started. 

Writing an Obituary

An obituary should announce that a person has passed away. It should provide details about the funeral arrangements and/or memorial service.  

Of course, there is plenty of facts to write down. To get started, gather as much information as you can. Ask other family members and friends, and you can talk to the loved one’s coworkers as well.  

They will help you recall memories or share new ones that people may enjoy reading about. There are some pieces of information you should and should not include. 

What to Include

When you are writing an obituary, you are telling people about whom the family member was as a person and what their life was like. One of the first things to include is the person’s name, age, and where they were born. 

The next part of an obituary is the summary of the loved one’s life. It does not have to be very detailed, but it is a good idea to write down a few highlights. Some of the key facts are where they worked and any hobbies they may have had. 

A good obituary may list any accomplishments the loved one made in their lifetime. You also can include a short but funny anecdote or two. 

Create a list of relatives who survive the deceased. Obituaries often include the full names of any children, siblings, parents, and spouse/partner. For grandchildren, state the total number. When listing the spouses or partners of children, write their first name in parentheses. 

What Not to Include

A piece of information that you should not include is the loved one’s home address. Excluding it can help prevent any possible property theft or unwanted guests from showing up.  

For those who may have had a complicated relationship with the individual, it is best to avoid expressing any hard feelings. If there is nothing neutral or positive to say, then only use basic facts. 

Try to avoid any jokes that can come across as rude, and you should make any lighthearted sarcasm clear. 

How Long Should It Be?

The length of a printed obituary varies based on what local newspaper you choose. Each one has its own set of word lengths and prices. As a general guideline, try to keep short obituaries somewhere between 40 and 100 words.  

Full obituaries can be between 100 and 500 words, and a detailed tribute might be over 500 words. If you plan to create a printed version, make sure to check the publication’s requirements. 

With online publication becoming widely accessible, you may want to publish the obituary online. There are no word limits if you plan to post it on a personal website or social media. 

From Good to Great

One way you can make a great obituary is by using the present tense when creating a draft. It will help you feel connected to who you are writing about, and readers will sense this. Remember to change the obituary to the past tense later on. 

Throw in a bit of humor and wit into the obituary. Doing so will help the loved one’s personality shine. 

Try to tailor the obituary to fit the person. Some people may benefit from a more humorous one. You are not obligated to provide any funny moments if the loved one was a more serious person. It is okay to make it short and to the point if necessary. 

Standard Obituary Template

Now that you have a better idea about how to write an obituary, you begin to plan one out. Below is a standard template that you can tailor to your needs: 

[Full Name], [Age], passed away on [Date of Passing]. 

[First Name] was born on [Date of Birth] to [Parents] in [Place of Birth]. [He/She] had [Number of Siblings], and [Insert a Positive Statement by a Relative]. 

[He/She] graduated from [College] in [Graduation Year]. [First Name] studied [College Major] and had a successful career in [field]. [He/She] enjoyed [Hobby]. [Short Anecdote About the Person]. 

[First Name] was predeceased by [Family Members Who Have Passed Away]. [She/He] is survived by [Names of Living Family Members].