How to Write a Biographical Obituary

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Unlike death notices, which are typically written in the straightforward style of a news item, obituaries usually include biographical details and anecdotes that show why the deceased person was special to those who knew him. If you are asked to write a biographical obituary, contact the funeral director for the basic facts, then interview the person's family members, friends and colleagues for the stories that will honor his memory.

Organizing the Obituary

Give the deceased person's full name, including a nickname, if it was commonly used. Include the person's city and state of residence, the date of death and his age. Check with the family for permission to include the cause of death.

List the deceased's education and occupation, including degrees earned and awards. If the person had special or unusual hobbies, describe them. They will bring out her personality, which is one of the goals of a biographical obituary.

List survivors. The standard order is: spouse, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, other relatives, special friends and pets. If space is limited, ask the family which names to leave out. The obituary also may include names of family members who preceded the person in death.

Give the date and time for the visitation and funeral service. Include the street address and telephone number of the funeral home or place of worship, so mourners can get additional information. Some obituaries also list the names of pallbearers and clergy who will conduct the service.

Include memorial information, with the names and addresses of designated organizations. Thank hospital and hospice staff who may have been helpful to the deceased and the family.