6 Acceptable Obituary Formats (With Sample Obituaries)

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When it comes to writing an obituary for a loved one, you may fear that the task will be difficult. This is likely true. However, it’s possible to write a great obituary with the right tools and direction. Depending on where your loved one’s obituary is going to be published, you may also wonder what the correct format is.

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Below, we have provided six common obituary formats for a variety of situations. If you’re printing your loved one’s obituary in the newspaper, writing it in a word or google doc, sharing it on social media, putting it in a funeral program, or are planning a short or long format, we have tips and an example ready for you.  

1. Traditional Obituary Format for the Newspaper

When you’re dealing with loss, it’s understandable that a task like writing an obituary can seem impossible. But, even if you’re new to obituaries, they all sort of follow the same pattern and fulfill the same parameters. 

Writing a traditional obituary for the newspaper can be as straightforward as it sounds. In fact, you’ll find several great obituary templates here that are ready to be filled in with your loved one’s information. 

Since you’re printing this obituary in a newspaper, however, you should be advised that you cannot make edits after the fact. Be sure to check over your work thoroughly prior to submitting your draft and again if someone contacts you to approve it. 

Example

“Jean Martinez passed away at her home in Oklahoma City on August 1, 2020, at the age of 92. Jean was preceded in death by her husband, Mario, who passed away 7 years ago at the age of 82. She is survived by her son, Tony, his wife, Lupita, her grandchildren, Nico and Sera, and her best friend, Candy. Jean was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she lived for most of her life. She attended school in New Mexico and later became a teacher after receiving a degree in education… Jean was also a talented jazz singer and loved working in her garden…”

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2. Traditional Obituary Format for Word or Google Docs

Even if you’re not sharing your loved one’s obituary in a manner that’s as traditional as a newspaper, a word or google doc will still likely require a lot of the same content. After all, obituaries are meant to be public death announcements that provide a few key types of information. 

Be sure to include:

  • Biographical information
  • Surviving family members or family that preceded in death
  • A brief summary of your loved one’s life
  • Any funeral, memorial, or related plans
  • Legacy information

If you’re unsure what any of these aspects are, we’re sure to discuss them at some point in this article. You may also be interested in this post about choosing a proper obituary photo.

Example

“Wendy Parker passed away on August 2, 2020, at the age of 67. She is survived by her two children, Thomas and Louise, who both live in Pasadena, California. Thomas and his wife, Susan, are expecting their first child at the end of this year. Louise is also planning to adopt in the near future. Wendy’s children are devastated that their mother never got to be a grandmother, but they are grateful their children will have such a powerful angel in heaven…”

3. Obituary Format for Social Media

When writing an obituary for social media, this doesn’t necessarily mean all of the rules are out the window. However, you should find some comfort in knowing that social media often allows you to edit posts as-needed. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t worry about making mistakes, however, but, as things happen, you’re more able to change them. 

Creating a post on social media also allows you to share it with your friends and family freely. You can also include photos, videos, and other relevant content directly from your post. You may also be interested in reading this post about announcing a death traditionally and with social media

Example

“[INSERT PHOTO/VIDEO/ART] Joe “Grandpa Joe” Sargioli passed away on July 30, 2020, at the age of 81 and will be deeply missed, especially by his many grandchildren, both related and not. Joe lost his wife, Maria, four years ago at the age of 76. Joe is survived by his five children, Tony, Marco, Bobby, Marie, and Risa. Tony and his wife, Gina, live in Brooklyn, NY, with their children… Joe often made the news for his funny antics as dressing up as Santa Claus as seen in this article [LINK]...” 

4. Obituary Format for a Funeral Program

Much like printing an obituary in the newspaper, it’s important to fact-check and edit your draft for a funeral program carefully. Printing an error or mistake may even be more obvious, as everyone reading the obituary will know your loved one personally. Though you shouldn’t fret if something is incorrect — mistakes happen — you’ll likely be much more at ease and able to heal if things like this are avoided.

When formatting an obituary for a funeral program, you’ll also likely have a great point-of-contact at the funeral home to help you through the process. He or she should be able to give you more direction about how long your obituary has to be as well as any other details. 

Example

“John Edmonton passed away at the age of 72 on July 29, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Josephine, and his son, Ryan. Ryan and his wife Crystal are expecting a son later this year and plan to name him John… John was born and raised in Utah before attending college in Michigan where he met his wife, Josephine. The duo met out dancing… On behalf of John, his family would appreciate donations to be made to the Utah Children of the Arts Program in Salt Lake City…”  

5. Short Obituary Format

If you’d prefer to write a short obituary or you don’t have unlimited free space, this doesn’t mean that you have to skimp on details about your loved one. This simply means that you’ll have to be more creative in what you say and in fewer words. To save space, for example, you may choose to make your loved one’s list of family a bit briefer. These lists can get very long and complicated, but, granted, some people don’t have much of a choice. 

On the other hand, if you’re choosing to print your loved one’s obituary, you can also offer a longer version via social media or in a word or google doc for your friends and family to read another time. 

Example

“Angie London passed away at the age of 50 on July 28, 2020, in Denver, Colorado. She will be deeply missed by her family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. She is survived by her husband, Steve, her daughter, Chrissy, and her son, Luke… Angie attended Colorado State University where she studied to become a physical therapist. She was beloved by all of her patients and fellow staff. A funeral service will be held for Angie at St. Matthew’s Church on Tulip Lane on Saturday, August 22. All are welcome. In lieu of flowers, Angie’s family is requesting…”

6. Long-Form Obituary Format

To write a long-form obituary, you have more freedom and flexibility to include more information. You may choose to detail more about your loved ones predeceased family members, surviving family members, summary or life story — or any of the aspects we discussed above. You may also be interested in checking out this post about the difference between eulogies and obituaries

Example

“Daniel Simpson passed away in his home in Boston, Massachusetts, at the age of 99 on August 1, 2020. Daniel is survived by… Daniel is also survived by his two best friends from childhood, Mark Delaney, 97, and Bob Sevila, 96. The two are surprised that Daniel was the first to go, but they plan to continue their weekly tradition of drinking a beer at their local pub… Daniel was born in Amsterdam and later traveled to the U.S, with his mother, Lydia. He later attended Boston University and received his master’s degree from Harvard in physics… His family is holding a memorial service on Saturday, August 15, 2020, at their home in Cohasset. In lieu of flowers, Daniel’s family is requesting that donations are made to the Greater Boston Food Bank…” 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Writing an obituary after a loved one’s death is never an easy thing to do. If you’re ever unsure about the formatting of your loved one’s obituary or the contents of it, don’t be afraid to ask for help from another loved one or a professional. 

There’s likely a group of people out there who would love nothing more than to support you during one of the most difficult times. 

If you're looking for more obituary writing resources, read our guides on what née means in an obituary and short poems for obituaries or death announcements.

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