A helpful guide

How to Write an Obituary

Obituaries are used in several ways, and the length and content of each may vary. The three most common are:

  1. Newspaper: abbreviated version
  2. Website: a longer version
  3. Printed: longer version

Note: most newspapers will print longer versions. However, this can be very costly, so most people choose an abbreviated version for the general public and use the longer version on the funeral home website, family history sites, and other locations that can accommodate the additional content.

Abbreviated content

The purpose of the abbreviated obituary is to inform the general public of a death, with pertinent information about (1) identity to confirm who has passed away and (2) arrangements for those who wish to attend or contribute a memorial.

Basic information:

  • Full name of deceased, including maiden name
  • Age
  • Date of death
  • City and state of residence at time of death [note: if death occured in another location, use the place of residence, not place of death]
  • Name of spouse/partner/significant other, whether alive or deceased
  • Date, time and location of service to which the public is invited
  • Requested memorials

Extended information, if desired:

  • Date of birth
  • City and state of birth
  • Parents and family of origin:
    • If deceased, use "the late" or "pre-deceased by": "Mary and the late John Smith"
    • For siblings and other family members, use first name, last name (spouse): "Jane Smith (Bob)"
  • Immediate family: children and spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren

    • If too many to list, you may state "10 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren"
    • If unsure of quantity, you may state "many grandchildren and great-grandchildren"
  • Extended family: nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, etc. are not usually named
  • Brief career
  • Education
  • Military service
  • Brief mention of hobbies or special interests

Extended content

The funeral home website or other online sources offer a place to provide an extended obituary. When this is available to you, additional content may include:

  • Date of marriage or how long married
  • Special events, hobbies, travels, or interests
  • Awards and achievements
  • Leadership roles
  • Involvement in charitable, religious, business or community organizations
  • Extended career
  • Places of residence
  • Acknowledgement of thanks to caregivers or special friends

 Special circumstances

  • Cause of death: most people do not include it, though it is your choice
  • Divorce: ex-spouses are usually not included