How to Write a Death Notice or Obituary

A death notice is a paid announcement in a newspaper that gives the name of the person who died, details of the funeral or memorial service, where donations can be made in the deceased’s name, and some amount of biographical information. You can write and submit a death notice to local or national newspapers and have them publish the notice for a fee.

An obituary is an article written by the newspaper’s staff offering a detailed biography of the person who died and his or her life achievements. Most major newspapers will not allow family members to write and publish obituaries in the paper. However, smaller papers, such as community newspapers or organization newsletters, will usually publish long-form obituaries.

Information commonly included in a death notice

The amount of information included in a death notice is entirely up to you and depends on how much information you want to publish and how much money you want to spend.

The basic information usually included in a death notice is:

  • The full name of the person who died, including maiden name or nickname
  • Date and location of death
  • Cause of death (optional)
  • Names of surviving family members (optional)
  • Details of the funeral service (public or private); if public, date, time, and location of service
  • Name of charity to which donations should be made

Additional biographical information may be included in a death notice, such as:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of marriage, and name of spouse
  • Educational history, including schools attended and degrees or honors received
  • Military service, including any honors or awards received
  • Employment history, including positions held, awards received, or special achievements
  • Membership in organizations, including religious, cultural, civic, or fraternal
  • Special accomplishments
  • Hobbies and interests

For a checklist of information to include in a death notice or obituary, use our resource Checklist: Writing a Death Notice or Obituary.

Tips for writing death notices and obituaries

Work collaboratively: There is often a lot of information that must be gathered in order to write a death notice or obituary. Sitting down with key family members or getting everyone on the phone together can help cut down on the time it takes to gather the necessary information. In addition, having everyone participating in the process at the same time can cut down on the amount of back-and-forth that often comes with writing something as a group.

Agree upon the scope: Before beginning to write the death notice, figure out what information you want to include and what information you want to leave out. For example, you may not want to include the details of a family rift in the notice. Or if the person had many grandchildren, it may become very expensive to name them all. 

Proofread: Have at least two different people read over the death notice once it’s been written to avoid spelling, grammar, and informational errors. Things to look for include:

  • Make sure all people’s names are spelled correctly
  • Make sure the names of all cities, companies, organizations, schools, and clubs are spelled correctly
  • Make sure that the funeral service information (date, time, location) is correct
  • If the notice mentions making donations in the name of the person who died, make sure that any instructions for making donations are correct

For death notice templates, see our article Death Notice Templates and Obituary Templates.

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