How Long Is the Average Obituary or Death Notice?

Updated

An obituary is a death announcement that typically appears online or in newspapers. Traditionally, this was the primary way people shared news of a passing. Nowadays, it’s mainly a formality, but it’s still an important part of the grieving process for families and friends. 

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Because this isn’t something many people write very often (if at all), there’s understandably a lot of confusion about how to write an obituary. One of the biggest questions is how long the average obituary or death notice typically is. 

What’s the average length of word count for an obituary? While the answer isn’t exactly black-and-white, there are a few things you should know about the length of an obituary if you’re writing one for yourself or a loved one. 

Average Length of an Obituary or Death Notice

There are a lot of factors that affect the length of an obituary or death notice. If you’re printing your notice in a newspaper or other traditional print medium, there are usually character restrictions. The newspaper only has so much space, and you’ll pay more for a longer obituary or death notice. 

On the other hand, with the rise of online media like online memorial websites and social media, there’s a lot of flexibility if you’re posting your obituary online. These websites don’t have the same restrictions and limitations as print, so you can get away with much longer obituaries. 

In general, obituaries are typically around 200 words. This is a good length for keeping things short, sweet, and to the point. Remember, an obituary isn’t someone’s full life story. It’s a death announcement, so you don’t need to go too in-depth to share someone’s entire legacy. 

How do you find obituary or death notice length requirements?

If you plan to submit an obituary, you’ll want to take a closer look at any length requirements. These are either limited by word count (for example, 200) words or characters. 

The word count simply counts each word, so it’s a bit easier to follow. Conversely, the character count includes things like spaces, punctuation, and so on. You’ll find these requirements by looking in a newspaper or publication’s obituary section. Additionally, you can contact the section editor. 

How Long Should an Obituary Posted Online Be?

With that in mind, how long should an obituary be posted online be? In the days of newspaper obituaries, this was a much more straightforward question. Because newspapers set their own requirements, you followed the wishes of the editor. When posting an obituary online, you don’t have the same strict requirements. This can be even more confusing when you don’t know how long the obituary should be. 

In general, there is no one-size-fits-all. Most obituaries are around 200 words. This is enough space to share the basic information about someone’s life, surviving relatives, and service events. Since there’s no character limit online, you can easily share an obituary of up to 500 words. 

While you could post a longer obituary, this isn’t always a great idea. An obituary that’s too long runs the risk of veering off track, and it’s unlikely to be read in its entirety. Think of an obituary like a highlight reel. It should share only the most important details, not someone’s entire life story. 

Online memorial obituaries

If you’re posting a loved one’s obituary on an online memorial, you’ll want to pay close attention to the specific requirements. While it’s rare to find a word limit, there might be physical limits on the page itself. A long obituary might ruin the layout of the memorial page, or it could cause loading problems. 

When in doubt, check the online obituary guidelines in advance. Many online memorial tools also have built-in templates, making it possible to use their recommendations as a guide. Regardless of the word limit, it’s a good idea to keep your loved one’s obituary short and to the point. 

Online newspaper obituaries

On the other hand, online newspapers usually have stricter character limits. If this is the case, you’re likely to need to stick within the 200-word limit. While this is entirely dependent on the specific newspaper, most editors want shorter obituaries. There are no lower-end word limits for obituaries, and some can be as brief as a single sentence. 

No matter where you’re sharing your loved one’s obituary, take a moment to check the specific guidelines. It’s normal to have multiple versions of the same obituary to suit the situation. You can easily edit down a longer online obituary for traditional publishing, for example. 

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Short Obituary Examples

A short obituary is what you commonly see in newspapers and media outlets. These are often written by friends and family, and they briefly highlight someone’s life. 

They include things like someone’s career, age, and surviving family. These obituary examples below are all under the typical 200-word mark. 

Mina O’Connor, 79, of Tampa, FL, died on August 20, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. She was born in Kissimmee, FL to parents Karen and John Wiley. Mina worked as a high school teacher at Osceola County public school where she met her husband, Jim O’Connor. The pair married in 1970 before moving to Tampa. She is survived by her son, Kevin O’Connor, who continues her work as a public school teacher. Her family welcomes close friends and family to join them at Tampa Catholic Church on August 25 at 9 AM for a brief funeral service. 

Oscar Roth, 63, passed away at home surrounded by family and friends on May 1, 2008. He was born on June 1, 1945, in Houston, TX, the son of late Madison and Dennis Roth. On June 4, 1980, he married Jane Doe. He worked as an engineer for the U.S. Army for 30 years before he worked locally to stay close to his family. Oscar is survived by his daughter and son, Liz and Tony, who remember him as a beloved father. He is preceded in death by his wife, Jane, and his brother, Roy. A service was held on May 3, 2008, in his honor. His family requests loved ones toast a drink in his honor. 

Kathy Pickett passed away suddenly on September 25, 2016, at age 34 from health complications. Kathy was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, daughter of Katherine and Tim Pickett. She attended North Charlotte high school where she graduated at the top of her class and continued on to the University of North Carolina. After earning her masters in Psychology. She worked as a child therapist for 5 years before her health got in the way, and she was dedicated to each and every patient. She held a very special place in her family and friends’ hearts, and they request donations be made to her alma mater in her honor. The family will be holding a private reception to share memories and laughs. 

Longer Obituary Examples

A longer obituary is an obituary that’s over the typical 200 character limit. These go into greater detail about someone’s life, accomplishments, and relationships. 

Longer obituaries are usually creative obituaries, allowing more freedom to “break” with the norm to share someone’s legacy. See how these longer obituary examples below aren’t afraid to take risks.

Denny Stocks passed away peacefully in his bed at age 94 on July 1, 2012. He left behind quite the mess in his apartment, and his family has no idea what to do with any of it—especially his endless collection of baseball cards that he swore were worth a fortune (hint: they’re not). This beloved father, grandfather, and Mariner’s fan was born on May 10, 1918, to Annie and Alex Stocks in Tacoma, WA. Though he spent most of his adult life on the east coast, he never gave up his love for Washington sports teams. He could always be heard shouting over the TV and radio during games, and his family was forced to sit through one-too-many games over the years. Denny was the kind of father who was involved in everything, from ballet lessons to soccer games. He was everyone’s biggest supporter, and he always made his opinion known—even when it wasn’t welcome. Everyone who loved him will remember Denny for his wit, charm (when he wanted to be charming), and passion. His children plan to take a trip to a Mariner game next year in his memory. In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations to cover the cost of the funeral and burial. A celebration of Denny’s life will be held in his honor this summer. 

It’s with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Margarette Anne, a loving and devoted mother and friend to all. She passed in her sleep on August 10, 2010, at age 100. Born in England, she served in the Women’s Force during World War II where she assisted soldiers near London. While serving, she met her beloved husband, Frederick who fought in the front lines. After the war, the married couple immigrated to New York where they settled in Albany. Margarette loved being a mother to Phyllis and Albert, and everyone will attest to her abilities to manage it all without batting an eyelash. She loved to cook, knit, and host her local book club. She volunteered with the Albany Women’s Shelter, vowing to help as many women as possible during her time on earth. She was devoted to her family and her community, and she will always be remembered for her service to others. A funeral will be held at her daughter’s home on August 20 at 2 PM. Her family welcomes flowers and donations to be sent to the Albany Women’s Shelter where a plaque is being hung in Margarette’s honor. Her legacy is proof that any one person can have a profound impact on those around them. 

Arnold Hough told his last joke on April 10, 2010 age 40. Though he fought until the very end, cancer finally got the best of him. He died like he lived: by his own rules. He passed at home, despite the wishes of his doctor, surrounded by his wife and children. Defiant until the end, Arnold is remembered by his family for his courage, kindness, and commitment to getting the last laugh. Though he was only on the earth for a short while, he made sure to fit as many lifetimes as possible into that time frame. Born in 1970, he joked his way through school, decided to drop out of college after just one semester. His “gap year” turned into a never-ending search for the next biggest adventure. From cliff jumping in South America to shark diving in Africa, there was nothing Arnold didn’t do. He didn’t even slow down when he met his love, Amy. They married in 2000 and traveled together for several years before settling down to welcome their daughter Charlotte. Committed to his family and his friends until the end, Arnold was always there to break the ice, tell a joke, or just lend a helping hand. His family plans to scatter his ashes in the ocean this summer, and an intimate funeral is held for close loved ones. In lieu of flowers, Arnold requested friends and family send their favorite jokes to his beloved daughter, Charlotte. 

Where Can You Post an Obituary?

Now that you know how to write an obituary, where can you post it? In today’s world, you have more options than ever before. You can choose as many places as you’d like to post your obituary, and this is entirely up to your family’s wishes. 

Newspaper

First, the most traditional place to post an obituary is in a newspaper. Print publishing has always been used as a way to update the community about deaths for the past hundred years, and the same is true today. Though this option isn’t free, it can be worth creating a permanent print memorial. 

However, you’ll need to review the specific requirements of the editor before you submit your newspaper obituary. Many obituaries limit the number of words, photos, and more. This can be more limiting than other publishing options. 

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Online memorial site

Next, you can also post an obituary online. Today, there are many online memorial websites to choose from. These make it possible to share your loved one’s memory in a meaningful way digitally. Because it’s entirely online, you can share your obituary with friends, family, and more. 

Many online memorial sites also have extra features. These include donation tools, media uploads, and guestbooks. All of these perks make this a low-cost, easy-to-use option. Slowly but surely, this is becoming more popular than traditional newspaper publishing. 

Social media

Last but not least, more people than ever before are posting obituaries on social media. This makes sense since it’s a platform you already interact with regularly. When you share an obituary on social media, you immediately share this loss with your close circle, eliminating the need for questions while getting support. 

Though relatively new, social media has quickly become a huge part of our daily lives. Expressing your grief digitally is easier than ever, and it can even be a source of real-world comfort after a loss. 

A Written Legacy: Obituaries and Announcements

An obituary is more than just a highlight’s reel. It’s a reminder that every life is important and has meaning. Though limiting one’s entire existence to 200 words (or less) might sound like a challenge, it’s important to read between the lines. 

If you’re writing an obituary or death announcement, use this opportunity to create something truly memorable. It’s these announcements that go on after death. They’re one part of our complex legacies, and they’re a form of remembrance in themselves. 

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