Tips for Writing and Delivering a Successful Eulogy

Writing and delivering a eulogy or remembrance speech can seem daunting. In addition to the grief and sorrow you're already feeling as you cope with the loss of a loved one, you must find the time to organize your thoughts, put them down on paper, and deliver your speech—all within the fairly compressed timeframe between the death and the funeral or memorial service.

While only you can determine the unique tone of your eulogy, the following five tips will help you write and deliver a touching, meaningful eulogy in nearly any funeral or memorial setting.


Keep Your Eulogy Brief

Girl at church lectern

Stockbyte / Getty Images

This is not the time to write the great American novel, so keep telling yourself that "less is more." The truth is that the longer you speak, the more likely you will ramble and make listeners feel awkward, bored, or uncomfortable.

Instead, you should create a eulogy that you can deliver in around five minutes. If possible, ask the funeral director, clergy member, celebrant, or other officiants beforehand how much time you will have during the service, but five minutes is a good rule of thumb.

To help keep your remembrance speech brief, you should focus your eulogy on a specific quality or two about the deceased that you admire, or share a story about the deceased that expresses a significant personality trait or formative moment in their life.

Ideally, try to relate something that you witnessed firsthand or that personally involved you, but if you're having trouble thinking of something, then it's OK to ask a close loved one for some ideas.

By limiting the scope of your remarks in this way, you should find it easier to write your eulogy. A eulogy outline can also help. In addition, you will more likely give your listeners some meaningful insight into the deceased that they will cherish, rather than fill them with the desire to glance at their watches or stifle their yawns.


Make the Eulogy Personal

Listeners will not find your eulogy moving if you merely recite a list of dry facts, such as those found in most obituaries. And avoid simply rattling off a long list of character traits, such as "Uncle Ben loved hunting, motorcycles, the Green Bay Packers, woodworking, etc." This approach is uninteresting.

Instead, share a story that illustrates something your loved one enjoyed—especially if you were also part of that story. If you can't think of a firsthand story to share, then talk to a close family member or friend and borrow one from them.

For example, if you and Uncle Ben once took a road trip on his motorcycle to see the Packers play football, that is the story to tell. Not only would this convey a deeper sense of his love of motorcycles and the Green Bay Packers, but you would also find it much easier to share other insights that listeners will find meaningful.


Keep the Eulogy Positive

Many movies and TV comedies have focused on the main character struggling to write and deliver a eulogy about a person he or she despised, such as an overbearing boss or unfaithful ex-spouse.

Assuming you're not tasked with eulogizing somebody like Ebenezer Scrooge, you shouldn't have a problem finding enough words to focus on the positive things.

If you struggle, remember that listeners will not be there to judge you on the thoroughness of your remarks. If the deceased was a difficult person or led a troubled life, then just trust that those in the audience already know that and it's not your job to break the news to them.

In some cases, you might feel it's impossible not to reference something negative or unflattering about the deceased, even though you're trying to focus on the positive.

If you find yourself in this situation, then you should resort to a euphemism to help get you past the awkward point in your eulogy and to avoid adding greater pain to those mourning.


Make a Written Copy

Even people who earn a living making speeches use a written copy of their remarks. Often, these are projected on teleprompters for easy and inconspicuous reference. Sometimes, a speaker will simply have a printed copy on a podium or even just an outline on index cards in a pocket.

If the professionals use a written copy of their speeches, then you should too. While you definitely need to practice your eulogy several times to make sure it's long enough and that you become familiar with it, there is no reason to feel you must deliver your remarks from memory.

Moreover, if you write your eulogy or remembrance speech on a computer, print it out using a font size that you find easy to read, and double-space the printout so it's easier to keep your place.

In addition to your printed eulogy, it's also a good idea to have a handkerchief or tissues with you in case you grow a little emotional, and a bottle of water should your throat feel dry.

It can be a nice touch to give a copy of your eulogy to the grieving family. You may want to bring extra copies along or have it available in an email to give to people who will request a copy.


Use a Conversational Tone

Public speaking traditionally ranks among the greatest fears that people hold. Despite this, most people have no problem talking to their family members, friends, co-workers, or even strangers if the situation calls for it. The difference, of course, is that nobody is watching you in those latter situations.

To help you deliver your eulogy effectively, and to make it more interesting for listeners, speak in a conversational tone—as if you were simply talking to a family member or friend. This should be easier if you've followed the advice above and you're sharing a story or other firsthand insights.

In addition, remember to look up at your listeners from time to time and make eye contact. Doing so will help your delivery feel more like a conversation, and you will be less likely to rush through the eulogy and/or deliver it in a monotone voice.

If you don't feel you can look at your audience without growing emotional, however, then keep your focus on your written remarks and don't feel self-conscious if you need to pause for a moment to compose yourself.

A Word From Verywell

Often, a memorial service takes place soon after you've experienced the loss. You and the other mourners may be early in the phases of grief.

As time passes, you may find that a grief support group can help you, or you may recommend one to others who seem to be struggling with the loss. Grief can become complicated grief and you may need further assistance.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Corless I, Limbo R, Bousso R, et al. Languages of grief: a model for understanding the expressions of the bereaved. Health Psychol Behav Med. 2014;2(1):132-143. doi:10.1080/21642850.2013.879041

  2. The University of Arizona Poetry Center. Writing a eulogy poem.

  3. Bruin-mollenhorst J. The musical eulogy and other functions of funeral music. Omega (Westport). 2018;30222818799939. doi:10.1177/0030222818799939

  4. Nakajima S. Complicated grief: recent developments in diagnostic criteria and treatment. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, B, Biol Sci. 2018;373(1754). doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0273

By Chris Raymond
Chris Raymond is an expert on funerals, grief, and end-of-life issues, as well as the former editor of the world’s most widely read magazine for funeral directors.