Here are some general tips and things to consider when writing a clear, thorough, and memorable obituaries.
Be accurate: Accuracy is the most important thing to remember when writing an obituary. Errors such as misspelled names, discrepancies in writing, wrong dates, and important information can be missed easily.
Make sure you have enough information about the deceased: When you’re writing an obituary for someone else, maybe someone not in your family, be sure to gather as much information as possible about the person you are writing about. Things like eye color, favorite game, least favorite food, work, or their dog’s name could all be considered important when writing. It is better to have too much information and narrow it down than to not have enough material to work with. You can find the Evan’s Support questions HERE.
Be creative and memorable: This is your time to tell the story of a person who has passed, regardless of how old they were. Every person has a story to be told, and you have a blank canvas to do it with. Don’t just say someone had a sense of humor, give examples and stories about how funny they were. Tell stories and anecdotes about who they were as a person in a fun and meaningful way.
Focus on the person passed, not those still living: You are writing the story about someone who has just passed, not those who are going to miss them. Spend less time talking about their relatives and more time about the effect that the deceased had on people why they were alive.
Proofread, edit, and proofread again: TAKE YOUR TIME! Be thorough when searching for mistakes and be search to find any and all discrepancies. If you have the opportunity, have someone with an unbiased connection to the loved one read through it for errors; having an outside source helps catch small details you may have overlooked.
Remember who the obituary is about: From the first words of the obituary, it should focus on the person who has passed. Starting with things like “The family regrets to report…” takes away from who is being written about and puts the focus on the grieving family.
Avoid speaking about the deceased from the first person: Always talk about the person who has passed from the third person. Don’t tie them back to the writer by referring to the deceased as “Mom” or “Dad” or “my son/daughter.” This, again, takes away from the person being written about and puts the focus on the relatives.
Don’t rely on cliches: Be sure to be clear, respectful, and concise when talking about a person. If they died after a battle against cancer, for example, don’t say things like “After a courageous struggle…”; it’s a line that is used over and over again. Be unique to the person that is being remembered.
Focus on the life lived, not the death and the funeral: An obituary is written to celebrate the life of a person, not just announce the death of them. Don’t spend the majority of the piece talking about the end of their life and the funeral, rather, have a balance between life and death.
**Note: These tips and tricks are NOT the end all, be all! Many of these are common bits of advice for many people who have written obituaries before. The important thing to remember is that you’re celebrating the life of someone who has passed, and they deserve to have a meaningful story written about them. Be creative and speak from the heart!
Do you have tips for other obituary writers? Send them in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org