Knowing what to include in an obituary can be tough. There are many options available to you and you may be limited based on the type of publication you select. But once you figure out the obituary format and what to include, the process of sitting down and writing becomes much easier.
A typical obituary includes the full name of the deceased, their age, their date of birth, the city and state of residence where they lived at the time of their passing, the name of their significant other (whether they are alive or deceased), and the time, date, and place for the burial, wake, or memorial service. If you don’t have this information at the time of publication you can end the obituary with “funeral arrangements are being made by Number One Funeral Home and details will be announced at a later date”. That way anyone who is interested can contact the funeral home to get more information. You can also include the city and state where they were born, other places where they lived, the names and residences of their parents (for example: the son of the late Tim Brown), children, grandchildren, and other family members or special friends.
Knowing the optimal obituary format means being able to trim some fat because at this point your obituary can get quite long, and turn into a political issue if you leave out certain people. So it may be best to leave out anyone who is not immediate family. You can also include any special pets or activities in which they were involved including churches, volunteer groups, clubs, or hobbies. You can list their vocation and their place of employment, any notable accomplishments, their degrees and the schools they attended, any military service, the date of their marriage, personality traits, how they died, and where people can make a contribution in memory.
When considering what to include/exclude in an obituary think about how the deceased would want to be remembered. Most people don’t include how the deceased passed if it was especially graphic or a suicide. If they passed in a war or during a catastrophe you may want to include it.
The Optimal Obituary Format
How to write an obituary
Once you have all of the basic information the writing process becomes very fast. Start with the following:
NAME, AGE, of CITY AND STATE OF RESIDENCE, passed away DATE (and optional cause of death).
S/HE was born CITY AND STATE OF BIRTH, DATE, PARENT NAMES. NAME graduated with DEGREE from SCHOOL. S/HE was married DATE to SPOUDE NAME.
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION HERE: accomplishments, activities, employment history, etc…
S/HE was survived by NAMES OF CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN, ETC… separate each entry with a semicolon.
Funeral arrangements will be TIME, DATE, LOCATION.
Many obituaries have the same noun/verb format which may appear dry but is the typical style used by newspapers. Some newspapers and online publications may allow for more creativity and if so, go for it. While the aforementioned is simply an example obituary, it is best for you to mimic the obituaries of the newspaper you have selected for publication.
As with any writing piece, revise and edit your final product for more than just errors and typos, but for style. By setting some time aside to properly format and write the obituary, you won’t be forced to rush through the process and will have time to improve the finished product.