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There are subtle differences between Newspaper Obituaries, Death Notices and Funeral Obituaries. Knowing what to write for each can save you money, time and frustration. Here is a checklist and description of what is commonly accepted for each type of obituary.

What is an Obituary?

An obituary is a notice that announces the death of someone with a description of the person’s life and list of family members. An obituary can be published in a newspaper, online or in the funeral program. There are subtle differences in the obituary based on where it will be published.

Writing a Death Notice for a Newspaper.

A newspaper obituary is sometimes called a death notice because it simply announces that the person has passed away and gives funeral information. Before you begin to write, contact the newspaper to find out about length restrictions and costs.

In any case, a death notice or a newspaper obituary must be kept brief due to length restrictions. Usually the announcement will contain most of the following:

  • Full name of the deceased
  • City where they resided
  • Surviving Family
  • Date, time and address of memorial service
  • Date, time and address of burial service
  • Officiating Clergy
  • Memorial contributions to be made in lieu of flowers to:
  • Photo – if there’s room

You can find examples of death notices at obituarieshelp.org.

Writing a Newspaper Obituary for the Online Edition

All national and many local newspapers have online editions and will publish newspaper obituaries online for free or for a small fee, depending on the newspaper and the length of the obituary. Make sure you ask before you start to write and also be aware that many major newspapers only allow your obituary to be online for a short while. This can be frustrating to people who look for it after the fact and it makes genealogy and family search difficult at a later date.

When writing a newspaper obituary for the online edition you will have an opportunity to write a little more, but space will still be a consideration for most online newspapers. You’ll be able to include the above information, plus the additional information below:

  • Cause of Death
  • Education
  • Religious Affiliations
  • Professional Memberships
  • Participation in local or national organizations
  • Military Service
  • Occupation and employment history
  • Accomplishments, achievements, awards
  • Publications either written about or by the deceased
  • Hobbies or Activities
  • Acts of humanitarianism

Writing a Funeral Obituary

A funeral obituary can contain as much information as the funeral program will allow. Usually one page of the program is devoted to the obituary and it focuses on the education, accomplishments and activities of the deceased as well as lists surviving friends and family. A funeral obituary is much more personal and tells the story of the person’s life more than just the facts of the death and internment. See examples of funeral obituaries at obituarieshelp.org.

A Final Word About Obituaries

No matter how much you’re allowed to write, remember that an obituary is not only an announcement of a person’s death; an obituary honors the deceased and is their final farewell. It’s also a way for people to find out about the deceased’s accomplishments and family ties. In many cases, an obituary is the only way for families to know their ancestors and relations. The focus should be on the positive aspects of the person’s life. Any negative aspect should be put in the best possible light or omitted.

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