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Examples :: Personal Letters :: Obituary


An obituary is a notice of death, detailing the events of that person's life, adding some personal details occasionally, but basically a synopsis.

Despite the fact that it does often operate as a notice of death, it's not a classified ad, and requires more information than a basic death notice.

Essentially, an obituary is written as a descriptive narrative regarding a person after their death.

The basic format:


  • Name of the person
  • Age
  • Description of the person
  • Date of death
  • Reason for death (optional, can be included in text)

So the heading is written:

James Jones, 78, the popular local personality and grocer, died on …..


The text is a synopsis of the person's life, usually in chronological order.

James Jones was born locally at …. on (date). He attended ….. school, where he made lifelong friends and met his wife….. He graduated from ……. College, with a degree in….

In 1963, he opened his locally famous grocery business in the tiny village of ……, the first mixed business to survive. Most of Jim's customers said they went to his shop because of his personality and readiness to help people going through tough times.

He was known to deliver his goods to pensioners trapped under snow, and act as the local emergency service for people in trouble in the little village, using a local network of tradespeople to deal with the problems.

He married ….. in 1969, and they had two sons, …… and ……, who also helped Jim with the business when they were very young.

Jim was one of those people who did everything for anybody for all those years. His death after a short illness was a terrible shock to everyone in the area, because he was a everybody's friend.

Jim's legacy will live on, though. His wife says that their younger son …., will be returning home to take over the business and maintain the services his father started all those years ago.

James Jones will be much missed by the community, but never forgotten.

The text, obviously, varies with the subject and the requirement for content to describe the person.

The important factors in writing an obituary are:

  • Clarity of expression.
  • Coherent presentation of facts.
  • Covering the important parts of the person's life.
  • Content quality.
  • Accuracy of information. (It can be extremely offensive to include any inaccuracies in an obituary, always check your information.)
  • Appropriateness of content. (No off color stories, etc.)
  • Make sure all names and relationships with the deceased are correctly spelt and expressed.
  • These are professional obligations on the writer of the obituary, not a mere courtesy.

Considerations regarding publication of obituaries:

It's not strictly legally necessary in all cases, in most cases a matter of politeness, but the obituary notice should traditionally be seen and approved by the executor or the family for approval prior to publication.

This is also much more than a civility sometimes. It can be a legal issue, depending on the sensitivity of any information contained in the obituary. You may not know what's a sensitive issue or subject in the family, so it's best to get confirmation that the obituary is acceptable to them.

In some cases the obituary forms part of the family records, too, so it matters that the documentation is done properly and professionally.