How to write an obituary…

Posted on September 9, 2015 by J. Chad Pendley under Most Common Questions
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How to write an obituary

Obituary, Death Notice, Memorial Advertisement or whichever term you prefer is a notice that is placed in local publications that can serve different purposes.  Writing an obituary can be one of the last things that you can do to honor a loved one and a privilege that should be cherished.  Obituaries often announce the passing of an individual while listing the survivors and giving some biography on the life lived.  Obituaries have been used for decades and are often one of the most under utilized tools in creating a lasting tribute.  Many ministers incorporate the reading of an obituary during a service, creating a unique obituary will often be a great part of the service order and remembered by those who attend.  My hope with this blog post is to describe the different types of notices and help you create a lasting memorial that will be used for years as a tool of remembrance for many family generations to come.

First you must decide what type of obituary you want to compose and where you want to have it published.  Many sources that print obituaries have a charge and usually they charge per word, your funeral director can assist you with cost involved when making these decisions.  The two types of notices I will be writing about are obituaries and death notices, I will explain the differences and costs involved.

A Death Notice- 

A death notice is commonly used today due to rising cost of obituaries but serves a powerful purpose.  Most newspapers, online listings and radio programs do not have a charge for this type of notice, many refer to this as a “free notice”.  The purpose of a death notice is to announce the passing of a loved one while providing the details of the service…. basically think of this notice as a service announcement.


John Doe Smith, 95 of Marietta died on Tuesday, September 8, 2015.  A funeral service will be held on Friday, September 11, 2015 at Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home & Crematory, Historic Marietta Chapel.  Interment will follow at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.

An Obituary- 

An obituary provides the same information as the death notice above but will also list the survivors and any other biographical information you wish to place in the announcement.  While a death notice has a specific format, an obituary can be customized anyway that you wish… and that your budget allows!  There are two different thought processes when writing an obituary, you will need to decide which way you want to go and what you wish to achieve with the obituary.

One way of thinking is to paint a picture of that person’s life with your words, describing the life in full detail.  This option can be very costly but will serve as a keepsake after the obituary is published.  Many families will create a bookmark or frame an obituary and pass them down to future generations, helping to footprint this person’s legacy for many years to come.  A person who studies genealogy will find this type of obituary very useful in creating a family tree and making other connections, this a resource that has proved to be invaluable to this type of study.  From a reader’s perspective, this type of notice can bring up all types of emotions while they are remembering all the moments that you have written about.

The other way of thinking (my personal suggestion) is to write an obituary that will list the highlights of a person’s life and help the reader realize that they know this person.  Many times a reader will see the name and wonder if that is the person they know and listing items that the reader can associate with that person will help tremendously.  If the reader knew the person then they probably know the history of that person and the details of their life.  An obituary that lists where the person graduated from, where they worked, different memberships of clubs and churches, etc… will help the reader identify this person.  After all… this is one of the biggest reasons for writing an obituary… to let the public know of the death.

You can read some of our many obituaries here!

Writing an obituary is not meant to be stressful but yet for many it can be.  Our staff here at the funeral home writes a majority of the notices for the families that we serve but if you wish to add that personal touch… we are here to assist you with that!  It is hard for a close family member to only list a few highlights about a person’s life when everything is so important to them, this is where a good funeral director can help you with making these decisions.

I hope this blog has offered you some good information how to write an obituary and remember that you can always contact us or join the conversation online for any help!  We have created an obituary outline document that can assist you with writing your own, click here to request this document.

Chad is a licensed professional and is a native of Cobb County, growing up in Powder Springs and currently living in Marietta Ga. After graduating from McEachern High School Chad attended Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service and graduated as a Master Artist of the Pi Sigma Eta Honorary Mortician Fraternity. He was the recipient of the Bill Pierce award and Daniel E. Buchanan award, recognizing him as a leader in the funeral profession. A member of the Marietta Metro Rotary and different organizations in his profession, Chad also participates in monthly activities promoting the funeral home and networking with other professionals in the area. He is a member and attends Westridge Church in Dallas Ga. He is married to Kristin and as a proud father, Chad enjoys the time he gets to spend with his family. Chad is an avid hunter and a true outdoors man. He has a gift of developing a warm, helpful, and strong relationship with the families he serves and is a valuable source of knowledge at Mayes Ward-Dobbins.

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