1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

How to Write an Obituary


Updated June 21, 2014

After the death of a loved one, many people want to write a meaningful obituary to display in local newspapers or websites. At the very least, an obituary is a notice of death and funeral arrangements. At its best, an obituary is a meaningful summary of a person's life and legacy.

Follow these steps to create a comprehensive yet concise obituary for your loved one.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varies

Here's How:

  1. Start by making notes of important information that will be included in the obituary. You can use a pen and paper or a computer -- whatever is easiest for you to keep a clear list of important facts.
  2. Get the name right! Make sure you spell the deceased's name correctly and that you include the middle name, the maiden name (if she's a married woman), and titles (Jr., III, MD, etc).
  3. List date and place of birth and date and place of death. Also list where the deceased lived.
  4. Make a list of relatives, those living and those deceased. Don't forget grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and step-families. Decide which ones you will include by name and who will be included by relation.

    For large families, you may decide to list only the deceased's parents, siblings, and children and their spouses by name followed by a total number of grand or great-grandchildren. Children's spouses may be listed in parenthesis next to the child's name, for example Jane (John) Doe.

  5. The best obituaries aren't only a notice of death but a statement about the deceased's life. List interesting facts, personal thoughts, and other compelling information about the deceased.

    Avoid listing just dry facts. Instead, try to illustrate the person's life. For example, if they were charitable, give specific examples of how they made an impact on others.

    List as much information as you like. You can narrow down the list later when you begin to write the obituary.

  6. List the details of the funeral or memorial service and reception, if applicable. Include the mortuary handling the details and where burial or interment will take place, if applicable.

  7. Make a short list of charities or memorial funds that the individual would have wanted donations to be sent in his or her name. Don't forget the hospice agency that cared for your loved one or organizations that raise awareness and funds for specific diseases (the American Cancer Society, for example).

  8. Make a list of important people the deceased or their family would like to thank. It may be organizations or individuals that cared for the deceased through their illness or friends who went above and beyond.

  9. Refer to the Obituary Outline to begin writing the obituary.


  1. Include one or two other family members to help you recall facts, dates, spelling, etc.
  2. Have someone else proofread the obituary for mistakes or omissions.
  3. Check with newspapers and online obituary sites and do some price checking before you write your final draft. The cost may have an impact on how long or short you want the final obituary to be.

What You Need

  • Pen and paper or a computer.
  • Family members to help.
  • Contact information at newspapers or on-line obituary sites.
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Dying, Funerals & Grief
  4. Funeral/Memorial Planning
  5. How to Write an Obituary

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.