August 2, 2023
10 min read
Learning how to write an obituary can be a draining, exhausting task. But it doesn’t have to be.
Even though it’s a somber occasion, obituaries are written to honor a loved one who’s died, and they can be beautiful recollections of the person’s life.
We’ll help you learn how to write an obituary, including what to say, what not to say, and how to use our obituary template.
An obituary is a type of notice that acknowledges someone’s death.
These kinds of announcements are created to let other people know details about things like:
Obituaries also exist as a written memorial for a loved one. As such, they usually include information about the person and the life they lived.
If you’re tasked with writing an obituary, you might feel anxious, especially if you’ve never written one. Luckily, learning how to write an obituary isn’t as complex as it might seem at first.
A great place to start is identifying some important details about the person. For example, it’s a good idea to include information such as:
In a nutshell, an obituary can act as a concise overview of the person’s life.
Aside from including information about your loved one, you’ll also want to add any details about an upcoming memorial service or funeral. An obituary is also a good place to specify whether or not the memorial service is a public or private event.
Although not all obituaries include this, you can also add details about where other people can send donations.
When learning how to write an obituary, keep in mind that you have total control of what you include and you can absolutely leave out information as you see fit.
After you’ve completely finished your obituary, review it line by line and fact-check it to make sure all the dates, facts, and spellings, and other information is correct. It might be a good idea to let another family member review it too just for an extra set of eyes.
You can also use Yoodli to review your obituary. Here’s how.
Yoodli, a communication coach app, uses AI technology to analyze a person’s speech. Try recording yourself reading your obituary and upload it to Yoodli. You’ll get immediate analytics related to your speech and speaking patterns, such as filler word usage, word choice, speaking rate, and other metrics.
When Yoodli analyzes your obituary, it’ll give you actionable tips to make your obit better. For example, Yoodli might target specific areas of your obituary to tighten up. Not only that, but it’ll give you specific suggestions for how you should reword problematic or awkward areas.
Plus, experts say that reading your writing aloud is a great way to review it since you’re more likely to spot grammatical errors, misspellings, and other kinds of mistakes.
Still, you can use Yoodli for more than reviewing your obituary. Learn more about it below.
There are definitely some things you shouldn’t include in an obituary. Here are three quick things to not include in an obituary.
1. Your (or your loved one’s) mother’s maiden name
Although it’s pretty common to include a person’s maiden name in an obituary, scammers will use obituaries to find out this exact information. They can use the maiden name to answer security questions and potentially hack into your online accounts.
You can still include the maiden name, but just know it carries a small risk.
2. Your loved one’s address
Never include an exact address in your obituary. When you’re first learning how to write an obituary, it might seem natural to include this information, but it can be dangerous to share such sensitive information, even in an obit.
Believe it or not, people occasionally look to obituaries to find out when the service will be, where the family lives, and for how long they’ll be out of the house.
3. Negative emotions toward the person who’s passed
There’s a chance that you weren’t close to the person who died. If that’s the case, try not to be tempted to include negativity when figuring out how to write an obituary.
Just because someone has died doesn’t mean they’re already a good person. If you weren’t emotionally close to the person when they were alive, try to just stick to the facts and steer clear of any negative feelings.
If this feels too difficult, it might be easier and less stressful to let someone else write the obituary for you.
The cause of death isn’t included in an obituary simply because nobody really needs to know. It’s not anyone’s business to know what happened to your loved one. Plus, there’s no rule that you have to include the cause of death in the obit.
People also don’t include the cause of death in an obituary because the family is still likely grieving and seeing the cause of death can be emotionally painful for family members.
Many people write their own obituary for one reason or another. There are definitely advantages to writing your own. For example, when you do it yourself, you get to tell your own brief life story.
Plus, you’ll know exactly what your obituary will say when you die, unlike people who don’t pre-write their obit.
Writing your own can also help your family members in the future by saving them from having to do something that could be painful for them during the grieving period.
When you’re learning how to write an obituary, a template is especially helpful. We can generally break down an obituary template to include general info, life details, family information, memorial service details, and other information. Check out this obituary template to learn how to write and format your own.
To use this obituary template, fill in the information from the following bulleted lists.
In the first section, include general information about the person. This can include the loved one’s:
Also include where the person was living (although not the person’s full address). It’s best to just stick to a city and state.
Obituaries also need life details. Using this obituary template, you can fill out information about:
If you’re comfortable, you can also include any humorous stories or unique things about them.
Of course, family information is pretty common to include, too. When mentioning family in an obituary, there are two main categories: who the loved one is survived by and who died before them.
For surviving family members, you can include them in the following order:
You can also include information about other surviving family members. For example, you could mention any important friends, cousins, nephews, nieces, or in-laws depending on their relationship with the loved one. You can even mention pets and their names, especially if they were especially loved to the person who passed away.
Some people choose to also list the city and state for their family members when naming surviving family members.
For people who passed away before your loved one, you can include:
Like the surviving family members’ info, you can also include in-laws, nieces, nephews, and cousins in the section of people who passed away before your loved one. Similarly, you can also mention if they had an especially loved pet who died before them.
You can also include the date or year they died.
Any details about a memorial service or funeral can be shared in an obituary, too.
If you’re having a funeral, a viewing, a vigil, a graveside service, or some other memorial service, you might want to mention:
If you’d like, you can also include information like the names of the pallbearers or officiant.
There’s other information you can include too, like:
If there’s anything else you’d like to include that’s not explicitly stated in the obituary template, feel free.
If you’re still having trouble visualizing what the obituary could look like based on the above obituary template, some examples might help shed light on what they can look like.
Here are three obituary examples worth reading.
“Euphoria” star Angus Cloud died July 31, 2023 at the age of 25. His family didn’t release his cause of death, as was noted in the New York Times’ obit. The writer details Cloud’s acting on the show “Euphoria” — especially as he had no prior acting experience — and mentioned that although his character was supposed to be killed off, the show’s creator kept Cloud’s character just based on his natural acting abilities.
This article also included a quote from Cloud’s family, who said: “The only comfort we have is knowing Angus is now reunited with his dad, who was his best friend … Angus was open about his battle with mental health and we hope that his passing can be a reminder to others that they are not alone and should not fight this on their own in silence.”
Tori Bowie, a renown, respected Olympic athlete, died April 23, 2023 from complications from childbirth. In NPR’s obituary for Bowie, the writer uses her recent death as a talking point to highlight the risks for Black Americans, especially when it comes to preeclampsia and eclampsia.
This obit also details Bowie’s personal journey and how inspiring it was. NPR also included a quote from Bowie that shows her impressive resolve, who said: “My grandmother’s No. 1 rule was that once you start something, you don’t quit,” she told “Women’s Running.” “From a young age, she never let me give up on anything.”
Famous comedian Robin Williams died on Aug. 11, 2014 by suicide. His sudden death shook the world and resparked conversations about the importance of mental health. The BBC’s obit for Williams commended his work as a comedian, but also for his “more nuanced” acting.
The BBC further details Williams’ life, from his birth to his acceptance into Julliard to his film “Good Morning Vietnam.” The obituary also lists his surviving family members: His widow, Susan Schneider; his daughter Zelda; and his sons Zachary and Cody.
Learning how to write an obituary doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as you’d think. Following an obituary template can also save you some time in terms of considering what to include. You can even use tools like Yoodli to analyze and improve your obituary when you read it out loud.
You can think of being tasked with figuring out how to write an obituary as an honor that you’re more than capable of handling.
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