How to Write an Obituary

HUG provides a guide on how to write an obituary for a loved one, which is an announcement of their death with a description of their life and a list of surviving family members. The article emphasizes the importance of capturing the spirit of the deceased and offers practical tips, such as writing in the present tense and including personal details, to help achieve this. The post also includes a step-by-step guide to writing an obituary, including gathering key details, announcing the death, summarizing the person's life, listing family members, sharing funeral details, and fact-checking and proofreading the obituary. The post also offers a free obituary template to fill in the blanks and create a simple obituary.

Because there is nothing quite so moving as an obituary that truly captures and honors the spirit of the deceased, we want to give you all the tools you need to pay your tribute to your loved one. 

Keep in mind funerals take place just a few days after the death of a loved one, especially if it includes an open casket.  

The obituary will then have to be written quickly, while the grief is still very fresh. 

But first, what is exactly an Obituary? 

An Obituary is an announcement of the death of someone with a description of the person’s life and list of family members. The Obituary is often written by the funeral home, but many people -family members or close friends- choose to write one for their loved one to be published in the newspaper and/or to be included in the funeral program. It is meant to notify others about the details of any viewing, memorial, funeral and burial services, to share information about the person’s life, and also to serve as a long-lasting record for future generations.  

Who reads the Obituary? 

An obituary is different from a eulogy, which is usually presented at a funeral or memorial service. An obituary is written, while eulogies are spoken when friends and family gather to remember their loved one. Deciding on a speaker is part of the funeral planning process. 

Practical tips to write an obituary

Thankfully, there's a traditionally accepted formula used for obituaries that may help. We will give you a step-by-step guide to write an obituary. But first some practical tips:

1- Make it personal

If you want to write a great obituary, It’s important to capture the spirit of the loved one who has passed. You can dedicate one paragraph to it: describe in it not only what your loved one did, but also what your loved one was like. Focus on hobbies, passions and personal traits. Here are a few questions to help you: 

  • How would you describe your loved one’s personality? 
  • What are some of your favorite memories of your loved one?
  • What were your loved one’s proudest accomplishments?
  • What was the thing you loved most about your loved one?
  • Any quirks or other personality traits that made your loved one extra special?
  • How would they want to be remembered? 
  • How will they be genuinely remembered by those who loved them? 

2- Write in the present tense, then change it later.

Yes, write in the present tense and change it to the past tense later. According to experts, this approach can help you feel like you’re really connecting to who you’re writing about. You can also benefit from a first draft in letter form. Deliver it like you’re writing it to their husband or wife or best friend. Tell them something [positive] that they may not have known.

3- Don’t feel like your job is to lift the mood 

Use your own judgment about what's appropriate. If you know the person well, chances are you'll be able to assess the tone and style that would suit them.

Download HUG and start celebrating life through memories.

 Step-by-step guide to write an obituary

1- Gather key details about your loved one. 

You can also choose a family member or friend who will help with the process of writing an obituary. Reach out to people who knew your loved one so they can contribute information. 

2- Announce the death and include their full name, age, hometown, and date of death. 

You'll start with a basic announcement of the death that clearly states your loved one has passed away. Include their name, age, hometown, and date of death. You might add that the death was sudden or that it came after a long illness, and include the time and place of death. The place can be specific or, if you prefer, you might simply say they were surrounded by family.

3- Include a brief summary of their life. 

This is a way to honor them and also to help other people remember them.When writing an obituary, you can be straightforward and move from one fact to another. You can be more heartfelt, or even humorous. You also may already know what your loved one wanted to include and stay faithful to their ideas.There really is no "right way" to write an obituary. However, most obituaries will next include the person's birth information, including where they were born and the name of their parents. It's common to include their job and career information if it applies. You may want to add any educational achievements. A detail or two about their community activities, favorite hobbies, or their faith-community membership would be included here, too. Choose the things that reflect the identity of your loved one and how their life was shared with family and friends.

4- Mention family members who have already passed away, as well as surviving family members. 

If you've included the full names of the deceased's parents earlier, you don't need to repeat them here. What you can do is describe the family members beginning with the closest relationships. The common order of family in an obituary is:

  • A spouse or partner
  • Children and the spouses or partners of the children, whose names are set off with parentheses so that it looks like Child (Partner's First Name)
  • Siblings and their partners, if preferred
  • Grandparents, aunts, uncles, step-family members, or cherished and special friends can then be listed. Be sure to write the total number of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, even if you don't list their names.

5- Share funeral or memorial service details. 

If you plan to invite the public, be clear that this is the case. If your ceremony is private, be clear about that, too. For a public memorial, simply invite "family and friends" to the service. When you write the obituary, make sure people have information that includes:

  • Time
  • Day
  • Date
  • Place
  • Location

6- Note where donations, if applicable, may be sent. 

It's common to ask people who might otherwise have sent flowers or a gift to make a donation instead. There's a good chance that your loved one may have already told you their wishes about donations to a charity or memorial fund. If not, then the choice is up to the family. Just be sure to name and location of the charity to which donations should be sent.

7- Fact check and proofread what you've written.

Obituaries are more than a matter of public record. They can become lifelong keepsakes for the people left behind. You'll want to be sure it's right. You can work with another family member or a friend to proofread your obituary writing and make sure all the facts are correct and that no one was missed in the family list. Be sure that the spellings of names and places are right. Sometimes, the ears are better than the eyes when it comes to improving the tone of a story. So, always give it one last read aloud before publishing it.


Download HUG and start celebrating life through memories.


Free Obituary Template

This free obituary template is designed to allow you to fill in the blanks to create a simple obituary. You may want to use sample wording to help create a more complex obituary. You will also need to gather information about the deceased.

Free Obituary template
Download .docx ©HUG APP CORP.

... more insights