How to Write a Meaningful Obituary

After the death of a loved one, you might want to write your own meaningful obituary for use on social media sites or to publish in a local newspaper and/or on a website. This article offers a step-by-step guide to help you write a meaningful, comprehensive obituary for your loved one.

Senior woman writing at table by window
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At a minimum, an obituary informs people of the fact that a death has occurred and of the details concerning the funeral, memorial service and/or interment arrangements. At its best, however, an obituary can also provide a meaningful summary of a person's life and legacy.

Ask other family members, friends, co-workers and/or others who knew the deceased well to help you recall facts, dates, proper spelling of names or locations, other important or interesting information, etc.

Writing the Obituary

After collecting the information you will need for an obituary, use a pen and paper, or your computer—whichever is easiest for you—to list and organize the important facts and information you want to include.

Basic Facts

Start with the full name of the deceased, his or her date and place of birth, the date, and place of death, and his or her age at the time of death. Also, note where the deceased lived at the time of his or her death. If you wish, you can include the cause of death.

Summary of Life

Provide a brief summary of the deceased's life, starting from birth and working forward. You don't need to include every detail; just the key facts/information that helps the obituary reader learn more about the deceased and/or helps the reader determine if he or she has a personal connection to the person who died.

Don't worry right now about listing too much information because you can always edit it later.

List of Relatives

List relatives, both living and deceased. Don't forget to include grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and step-family members. Decide which ones you will include by name and those whom you will include by relation only.

In general, obituaries usually include the full names of the deceased's parents, siblings, and children, as well as his or her spouse/partner, but only the total number of grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

In addition, the spouses/partners of children usually include only their first name in parenthesis after the child's name, e.g., "Survived by daughter Jane (John) Doe."

Funeral or Memorial Details

List the details of the funeral or memorial service and reception, if applicable. Include the name and address (and the website address and/or phone number, if available) of the funeral provider handling the details and where the burial/interment will take place, if applicable.


List the charities or memorial fund to which you want donations sent in honor or memory of the deceased in lieu of flowers.

Checking the Facts

Get the names right. Make sure you spell the deceased's name correctly and the name of any other family member or loved one you include. Make sure you also include the middle name or initial, a maiden name and/or any suffixes or titles (Jr., III, M.D., etc.). Have at least one other person proofread your obituary for mistakes or omissions.

Proofreading Tip

Here's an old proofreading trick: read the obituary by starting at the end/the last word and reading right to left as you work your way back to the beginning. Reading backward forces your eye/brain to see each individual word as it appears rather than a part of groups of words.

Publishing the Obituary

Before you write your obituary, check with your local newspaper(s) for any print/online publication requirements concerning the obituary length and the cost involved, which might impact the length of your obituary.

If you wish to publish your obituary in a particular newspaper, you should review its current obituary section and note what information, and its format, appears in order to help you better tailor your writing so you don't make yours too long or too short.

Obviously, if you intend to publish the obituary on a personal website or via social media, such as Facebook, the length doesn't matter.

Depending upon your chosen newspaper(s), publishing a photograph of the deceased might require an additional fee.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should be included in an obituary?

    An obituary should be caring and informative. If asked to write an obituary, be sure to include:

    • The full name of the deceased, including nicknames
    • The age of the deceased at the time of death
    • The city or town of residence at the time of death
    • A brief summary of the deceased's life
    • A list of immediate surviving family with names
    • Memorial or funeral details with the address and date
    • Details about charities or memorial funds to donate to
  • What information is optional in an obituary?

    Every obituary is different, and some serve as a memorial in their own right with a more extensive biography of the deceased, a photograph, and a list of non-immediate family members or friends who were close to the deceased. These can be more expensive to publish, so be sure to check in advance if cost is a concern.

  • Should the cause of death be in a obituary?

    Check with the deceased's spouse or family members before publishing the cause of death. In some cases, the family will prefer to keep this private. In such cases, you can use euphemisms like "passed after a long illness" or "passed suddenly," or simply put nothing at all.

  • What should not be included in an obituary?

    Obituaries should not be written in the first person; remember that an obituary is not a personal tribute. You should also not include anyone's personal address or phone number, including that of the deceased. Be sure to double-check all facts with the deceased's spouse or immediate family before publication.

  • How much does an obituary cost?

    Obituaries tend to cost between $200 and $500. The cost can increase with the length of the obituary as well as any add-ons (such as graphics, ad blocks, or black-and-white or color photos) you might include.

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  1. Neptune Society. How much does an obituary cost? Updated 2021.