Writing death notices and obituaries is a sensitive and important task, as it allows you to honour and remember the life of the person who has passed away, and help keep record for anyone who may have lost touch or is seeking out your loved one. 

Writing about our deceased loved one can be a confronting task, even if only minimal information is required. To help you get started, here is a detailed guide to writing a death notice or obituary.

Understanding the difference.

A death notice is a short announcement often made by family or funeral homes. It tells people about someone's passing and funeral arrangements. 

An obituary is a longer story about the person's life. It talks about their achievements and shares special memories about them. Both terms are used interchangeably, and are often seen as the same.

You can include as much or as little information as you want in a notice, whether that's funeral details, a message to your deceased loved one, details about their life and family, or all of the above.

Preparation before writing a death notice or obituary. 

Before writing a death notice or obituary, start by gathering all the necessary information about the deceased. Think about who they were, and what you would say when asked about who they were.

You can create a list that includes the deceased’s full name, any nicknames, dates of birth and death, and names of close family members. 

You may want to consider their significant achievements, hobbies, or things they were passionate about. If there are any relatives who passed away before them, they should be listed. 

Lastly, consider details about their education and key moments in their career. This list can help guide you in writing the notice, and even if you don’t use all of the information gathered, it is better to be prepared. You may also find this information useful when it is time to write a eulogy.

Writing the death notice or obituary.

  1. Headline. Begin with the full name of the deceased, their maiden name if applicable, and any nicknames by which they were commonly known. Include their age and the date of their passing.

Example: "Robert 'Robbie' Anderson, 75, passed away peacefully on 13 June 2023."

  1. Biographical information. This may include:
  • Date and place of birth
  • Information about parents or siblings
  • Education and work details
  • Marital status and information about their spouse or children
  • Notable accomplishments or hobbies
  1. Details of death. Mention briefly the cause of death if it's appropriate and the family is comfortable with it. Sometimes, a simple "passed away peacefully" is sufficient.
  1. Funeral or memorial service details.  Provide details about the date, time, and location of the funeral or memorial service, as well as any visitation or wake information. Include if the service is private.

Example: "A public memorial service will be held at [Location] on [Date] at [Time]."

  1. In lieu of flowers. Many times, families request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a specific charity or cause that was close to the deceased's heart.

Example: "In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Australian Heart Foundation."

  1. Personal touches. Share a short story, quote, or sentiment that captures the essence of the person. This can make the obituary more personal and memorable.
  1. Proofread. Before finalising and submitting, ensure all information is accurate, and proofread for any grammar or spelling errors, particularly for all names..
  1. Submission. Contact the desired newspaper or website to inquire about the process, cost, and submission guidelines. Some publications might have specific formatting requirements.

Examples of death notices and obituaries.

John Smith

Passed peacefully at the Royal Melbourne on Thursday, aged 90 years.
Dearly loved husband of Annie.
Loved and loving father of Michael and Jen.
Respected father-in-law of Karen and James.
Treasured grandfather of Lachie and Hayden.
Son of Vera and Bill (deceased), brother of Joan and Brian (deceased).
Always in our hearts.

Brendan Jones

Gone, but never forgotten. The Memorial Service for Mr Brendan Jones will be held at Bunurong Memorial Park, 790 Frankston - Dandenong Rd, Dandenong South on Wednesday 16 August 2023 at 2pm, followed by light refreshments.

Jane Jackson

13.06.1922 - 14.06.2023
Loved wife of Harry (dec).
Cherished mother of Michelle.
Step mother of Debra, Ken, and Barbara.
Much loved Nanna and Great Grandmother.

Mum, I’m blessed to have so many precious memories.
I hope there are plenty of tim tams and marie biscuits in heaven.
I will miss you so very much, and the beautiful letters you wrote.
Love, Michelle (Muffs)

Is there a cost to posting a death notice or obituary?

Online and physical newspapers will have a cost. My Tributes charge approx $130 for an online death notice, and for a physical death notice in one of their many newspapers can cost from $120-250+ depending on the publication. Head here for a pricing estimate.

News outlets under Fairfax Media, including The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WA Today, charge $129 for an online death notice. Contact directly for physical death notice pricing. 

Tips for writing a death notice or obituary.

  • There is no right or wrong way to write an obituary or notice. Share what feels right. 
  • Include personal anecdotes or stories that help capture the person's personality, quirks, and what made them unique.
  • Match the tone of the notice or obituary to the personality and character of the deceased. It can be formal, informal, or a blend of both.
  • Provide details about any memorial services, funeral arrangements, or gatherings for family and friends who want to pay their respects.
  • Death notices are typically brief, providing essential information.

Obituaries can be longer and more detailed, allowing for a more comprehensive overview of the person's life.

  • Carefully proofread and edit your writing to ensure accuracy and clarity. Mistakes can be difficult to rectify with the newspaper.
  • Try to capture the essence of the person's life and the impact they had on those around them.
  • Use appropriate and respectful language when describing the deceased and their relationships.
  • If the deceased had any preferred charities, causes, or wishes for donations in lieu of flowers, mention these in the notice.
  • After writing the notice or obituary, take some time before revising and finalising it. You can also ask a trusted friend or family member to review it for you.

While it's important to provide accurate and relevant information, an obituary or death notice should be written with respect, love, and dignity, reflecting the life of the person being remembered.

Planning ahead.

As part of planning for the end of life and your final wishes, you may want to consider any notes about what you would want in your obituary, or even write it yourself before you pass.

Read: Why you should write your own obituary.

At Bare, we're here to support you through end-of-life planning with our prepaid funerals, final wishes, free DIY will, digital vault and more. Call us on 1800 202 901 or click the link below for a prepaid quote.