A guide to writing obituaries

writing obituariesWriting obituaries (or indeed eulogies) can feel like a huge task. Most times they are written by people who are suffering in the immediate aftermath of a loss. This can make the whole situation highly trying and without some recent experience in writing, the task can bring stress to the writer. This said the amount required to be written is usually relatively short and the format is usually relatively straightforward.

Things to consider before writing the piece

1. Are you going directly to the newspapers yourself or is the funeral home or someone else assisting the process. This is important as the last thing you really want to do is get too involved with the situation especially considering the other commitments that may need your attention.

2. How big or prominent do you want the obituary? Remember many newspapers charge for obituaries so you may need to consider cost when it comes to the size and amount of text (and sometimes pictures) involved.

3. What is the usual format of the obituaries? What is the common theme or template in the newspaper or online newspaper you are looking at?

4. Ask about the deadline for the piece. This is very important as it frames your work and gives you something to work towards.

Things to consider when writing the piece

The first thing to include are the basics;

1. Full name

2. Age and Date of Birth

3. Location/city of death

4. Name of significant other (alive or deceased)

5. Information on the funeral plans. Times, locations and other information about the plans.

Additional information ideas

1. Locations of other places where the deceased lived (including their birthplace)

2. Details of close family and friends, even pets

3. Activities, employment and accomplishments

4. Personality traits

5. Anecdotes

Things to consider with proofreading and submission

Proofing yourself and with others

 – Remember to focus on grammar, spelling format and content. Get others to look for all the usual proofreading elements but tell them to make note if something important in the persons life has been left out.

Submitting the obituary

– The best advice here is to send it yourself, via email and make sure it has been received. Try to avoid hand written obituaries as these can be misread.

Getting a proof from the newspaper

– This is just one last request to make sure that the obituary has been correctly recorded. Not all newspapers will allow this however it may put your mind at ease if they do.

Submitting to other newspapers

– At this point you can now submit the obituary to other papers. This is especially true of deceased persons who lived significant parts of their lives in other places with differing newspapers.

Checking the obituary

– Ok, so you can’t do much about it if it’s incorrect however if it’s grossly wrong you may be able to get the paper to run the obituary the next day as a way of righting any wrongs done.

Final thoughts

So there you have it. The full guide to writing an obituary. For more examples see the links below. Try to remember that the whole process has 3 main components. The considerations before the writing, the writing and then the proofing.

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