How to Write an Obituary for Your Local Newspaper

woman typing obituary on laptop

Local newspaper obituaries usually originate with the funeral home that is handling the preparations for a loved one. Obituaries usually follow a specific format, though some will vary, depending on the experience of the individual writing them.

Format for Local Newspaper Obituaries

The format that is usually followed for writing an obituary is as follows:

  • The name and address of the deceased
  • The name and location of the hospital or city and state of the decedent's home
  • Birth date, city and state of where the person was born
  • The person's mother and father may be listed if desired
  • Schools that the person attended
  • Memberships in any clubs or societies, as well as any honors they received
  • A list of survivors, starting with their spouse and children, then siblings and immediate family
  • A list of immediate family members that predeceased the individual
  • The name, address and phone number of the funeral home
  • Time of wake and funeral, as well as the locations
  • The name of the individual who will be officiating the ceremonies
  • A list of where donations may be made in honor of the deceased

Writing a Family Member's Obituary

Family members may also write local newspaper obituaries, instead of having a representative of the funeral home do it for them. This may be easier for a family member that is familiar with a deceased person's accomplishments. One way to get specific information about an individual is to obtain a copy of their resume. This will list jobs that they have held, and it usually lists awards, honors and affiliations. Other places to obtain information include talking with friends, fellow club members and colleagues from work.

Write Your Own Obituary

It is not unheard of for an individual to write their own local newspaper obituaries, especially if they have held a political office or if they are otherwise famous. It is not unusual to find a copy of the obituary in progress on the Internet for a famous individual. Many large newspapers keep obituaries in progress in the event that individual passes. This makes it much easier to put the obituary immediately into the paper so that it appears in the next day's news.

Tips for Writing an Obituary

Writing obituaries are not difficult, but there are a few cardinal rules for writing them that are often neglected. A few obituary don'ts include:

  • Spell check the entire obituary before sending it to a newspaper.
  • Make sure the person's name is spelled correctly. This is the number one mistake made by writers.
  • Avoid stating that a person died suddenly or unexpectedly. Obviously, no one expects to die on a particular day or at a certain time. It is enough to write the date and location of where the person passed.

There are also a few do's that writers, other than those employed at a newspaper, should follow:

  • Always include contact information so that obituary writers at the newspaper can reach you for clarification.
  • Know if there is an insertion fee for the obituary. This usually only applies if you are including a photo of the decedent. Submitting an obituary without additional fees may delay when it will appear in the paper.
  • Submitting an obituary to other papers, such as where the individual grew up, is often appreciated by people that have fallen out of touch with the decedent. Submitting them to the person's college alumni association or other associations where the person was a member is also appreciated. This gives fellow classmates or club members a chance to send condolences to the family.

Review the Obituary Before You Submit It

Writing an obituary isn't difficult when a few simple rules are followed. Being a professional writer is not a pre-requisite for writing a family member's obituary. If you need ideas on how to write one, simply look through your local paper for ideas. After skimming a few obituaries, you should be able to determine the paper's format. Be sure to call the newspaper before you submit an obituary to see if there are any insertion fees. Finally, know that most funeral directors are familiar with writing and submitting obituaries for you, and it is usually included in their fee. Ask your funeral director to see the obituary before it is submitted so that you can make changes if needed.

How to Write an Obituary for Your Local Newspaper