Write an Obituary

How to Write an Obituary

Style and Usage Guide to Writing Obituaries

Obituaries are mini-biographies that form a memorial tribute to someone's life. They also contain important information for the general public, such as time and place of the funeral service. Utmost care must be taken to insure accuracy with key dates and correct spelling of names.

This guide is arranged by topic in alphabetical order and includes basic punctuation and other grammatical rules, correct style for publication in The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News and glossary of terms definitions where applicable.

This guide is intended primarily as an aide for funeral directors in helping families assemble obituary information and for Denver Newspaper Agency employees in editing the obituary for publication.

A checklist for families accompanies this guide.

Age - The deceased's age should immediately follow the person's name, offset by commas. Never use the word aged before the numerical age. The age may be omitted at the family's request.

Addresses - Never use specific street address for the deceased. Use only the city and/or state. For example: John R. Smith, 65, of Denver died Friday.

Cause of Death - This is optional for the family.

Comma - A comma should be used to separate elements of a sentence that are used in apposition. For example: John R. Smith, 65, of Denver, died Friday. Or, he is survived by his beloved wife, Martha.

Eulogy Comments and Phrases - Families have the option of adding descriptive words and phrases to describe the deceased, such as beloved husband or wonderful father of

Numbers - Except when referring to ages, use the word for any numbers ten or less, and use the digit for numbers 11 and above. Exceptions are when referring to numbers greater than ten as adjectives: forty, fifty, etc.

Place of death - This can be optional for families, but it is customary to say where the person died - at home, or in the hospital or nursing home (use the proper name of the facility) or in a city and state if the death occurred outside of Colorado.

Semi-colon - A semi-colon should be used to separate a list that also contains commas in the same sentence. A semi-colon most often will be used in lists of survivors. For example: He is survived by his brother, Charles, and three sisters, Martha Smith, of Phoenix, AZ.; Jane Jones, of Baltimore; and Sally Ward of Boulder, CO.

State abbreviations - Follow the Postal Service abbreviations for states found in the front of the metro Denver telephone book.

Time of Day - The hour is always followed by a colon to denote minutes and a.m. or p.m. Note the use of lower case and periods.

Titles - Titles should never be capitalized unless they appear before a person's name. For example: Mayor John R. Smith, 65, of Denver, died Friday. But it would be: John R. Smith, 65, mayor of Denver for 20 years, died Friday at his home.

Obituary Checklist

Please draft obituary in your own words using any of the following elements:
• FIRST NAME, MIDDLE INITIAL, LAST NAME
• AGE
• CITY, STATE, ZIP
• CAUSE OF DEATH
• PLACE OF DEATH (may specify hospital or nursing home, or may simply say name of city)
• DATE OF DEATH
• EULOGY COMMENTS (can be used throughout the obituaries, may include loving comments such as "beloved husband of" or "dedicated volunteer", or whatever description deemed appropriate)
• OCCUPATION (list job title or function, name of company and number of years employed at that company. May list more than one occupation if applicable)
• COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
• HOBBIES (list clubs, memberships, volunteer work, other noteworthy accomplishments, etc)
• MILITARY SERVICE (dates and branch of service and years served)
• MARRIAGE (list spouse's name, date of marriage. May also say the maiden name and state of origin. If spouse deceased, say s/he was preceded in death byÉ)
• OTHER SURVIVORS (list in order by the name and city: parents, children, grandchildren, step-children, brothers and sisters, cousins)
• RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION
• PLACE AND TIME OF SERVICE (name of funeral home, viewing hours, time of funeral)
• PALLBEARERS AND HONORARY PALLBEARERS (verify spellings)
• CONTRIBUTIONS AND OTHER MEMORIALS