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Helpful Articles - Ten Easy Steps for Writing an Obituary

Ten Easy Steps for Writing an Obituary

Writing an obituary is not a happy task after the loss of a loved one. In the midst of grief, it’s difficult to think about what to say.

With a little guidance, you can write a fitting tribute to a life well lived. An obituary serves an incredibly important function: it alerts friends and colleagues that a death has occurred and provides essential information regarding planned services. It also can act as a remembrance, of the one who passed away both for the writer and the readers.

Our Alternative to Posting a High Priced Obituary:  The Eternal Tribute Webpage 

Heritage Oaks Memorial Chapel offers a low priced alternative for the high cost of placing an obituary in your local newspaper.  We will place your loved one’s photo, the Obituary, the Eulogy, slide show, plus you can upload photos into an album for a fraction of what it would cost to run an obituary for just one day.  Members of your family and friends can sign the guestbook.  You can also add stories and precious memories.  Find out more about our Eternal Tribute Webpage.

Here are some basic steps for writing an obituary:

1. Decide How Much You Can Spend

If you have an unlimited budget to run your obituary, you won’t need to worry at all about how much you write.  But if you are on a budget you’ll want to find out exactly how much the newspaper charges.

Most newspapers charge by the column inch, which is how much of a page your obituary will take up. Since font sizes and margins differ from paper to paper, it’s a good idea to call and ask how many words fit in a column inch on average, how much that will cost, and if there is a word limit. With this information, you can decide how long you can afford to make the obituary. Your funeral director can help you with the preparation and placement of the obituary.

As an alternative, you can place a short obituary in your local newspaper and reference the Eternal Tribute Webpage on our website, www.HeritageOaksMemorialChapel.com.

2. Find Inspiration from Other Obituaries

Each newspaper follows a slightly different format for obituaries, and you will want to try to match their tone and structure as closely as possible. A good place to start is by reading current obituaries in the paper or on their website.  Many newspapers may provide you with an obituary template so you may wish to call the newspaper before you begin writing. If you plan to submit the obituary to multiple publications, get copies of each to ensure your obituary matches the style of each newspaper.

3. Find Out Deadlines

Most newspapers have deadlines for their next edition. Times will vary from one publication to another.  It’s wise to submit the obituary as early as possible.

4. Make Notes on Content

Start by making a list of the information you want to include.Don’t worry about format or length, just outline with bullet points what you want to include.  Take the time to gather needed information before you start writing the obituary.

Here is a list of information you may want to include:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Date of birth, and their age.
  • Date of death
  • Names and relationships of surviving family members
  • Where they were living when they passed
  • Information about services
  • Place of birth
  • Where they were employed and how long they lived
  • Service organizations they belonged to
  • Military service
  • Schools attended
  • Hobbies and accomplishments
  • Cause of death.

5. Write the Obituary

Once you have your list of what to include, write your first draft. If the newspaper or funeral home provided you with a template, it may be as easy as plugging in key information into the designated fields.  If you wish to write the obituary on your own, trying to match the style, tone, and format to the target newspaper.

6. Proofread

If you have time, let the obituary sit for a day or two, and then pick it up again and go through it, making sure everything is exactly as you want it to appear. Check for spelling errors and double-check all of the information you’ve included to make sure it’s accurate, especially dates. Once you’ve submitted the obituary, it’s difficult to make changes, so proofreading is very important.

7. Have Someone Else Proofread

Ideally you’ll want another family member or close friend to proofread the obituary for you. They should be looking for spelling errors and make sure that the information you’ve included is accurate. Another set of eyes can also determine if something you’ve included may not be appropriate for a public announcement, or if any important information has been overlooked.

8. Submit the Obituary

Although many people still submit obituaries as typed documents, almost all newspapers accept emailed submissions. Email is the preferred method of delivery simply because the editor can simply copy and paste your text into their column. This will lessen the opportunity for errors when the Obituary is published.

9. Ask for a Proof (Preview) of the Obituary

Your newspaper should be able to fax or email a proof of your submission so you can review it one last time before it goes to print.  This will be your last chance to catch any mistakes you may have missed previously.

10. Check the Newspaper

You’ll want to get a copy of the newspaper on the day your obituary is printed. Look to see if everything appeared the way you wanted it. If there is an error, it is entirely appropriate to call the newspaper and let them know. Almost all newspapers will gladly print a corrected version in the next day’s paper, along with an apology.  Having an actual clipping from a newspaper is a wonderful keepsake to pass down to younger family members.

Obituary Template

What follows is a sample template for a basic obituary. Many newspapers have specific styles and formats that they want their customers to follow. Read more...

Sample Obituary

John Dear, aged 79, of Modesto, CA, died at Union Hospital on Thursday, November 13th, 2008, of natural causes.  View entire sample obituary…

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Obituary

Now that you’re familiar with writing an Obituary, let’s take a look at some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.  Read more…

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