Composing an Obituary: The Basics

Writing an obituary can be a daunting task. It entails boiling a person’s entire life into a few short paragraphs, typically while the author is battling the raw emotions of a recent death. But there’s hope. While each newspaper may have a different stylistic approach, obituaries can be broken down into a basic formula. Below is the breakdown you’ll need when trying to compose an obituary.

The basics to include are as follows (please note, you don’t have to include information from every bullet point):

  • Announcement sentence (e.g., John A. “Bud” Doe, age 87, of Daytona Beach, FL died Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at Orange Grove Hospice.)
  • Education (Schools attended, dates graduated)
  • Occupation (Include titles, awards won, etc.)
  • Memberships (Clubs, Organizations, Church affiliation. List any special offices held)
  • Other Interests (Sports, hobbies, other)
  • Family
  • Deceased Family Members
  • Survivors
  • Service Information (Days, dates, and times of viewing, funeral/memorial service, burial, funeral lunch)
  • Memorial Contributions (i.e., “in lieu of flowers”)
  • Additional online information (e.g., messages of condolence may be sent to the family at

Additional tips:

  • Most newspapers charge by line. Financially, it sometimes makes sense to create two versions of the obituary. A shortened version for the print paper and a lengthier version for the funeral home’s website (typically, this web publishing cost is included in “professional services” and there isn’t an additional charge. If there is, it will be less expensive than a print newspaper.
  • Ask your funeral professional for help with composing the obituary.
  • Don’t wait. If you have an aging parent, spouse, relative ask them what they want said about their life. You don’t have to compose the entire text, but it helps to know what highlights they want included.
  • Photos are optional.