What Is A Death Notice?  What is an Obituary?

These two terms are often confused and used incorrectly.  An obituary is an article written about the persons life, accomplishments and legacy.  It is usually written by the paper after some research and rarely includes family mention.  A death notice is a concise notice that the death has occurred, and includes family members, funeral arrangements and possibly a short thought about or from the deceased.  A death notice has a cost to the family when it is placed in the paper, whereas the obituary is done at the discretion of the paper.

We will focus on a death notice which is more than merely a 'good-bye' to the deceased, this is a farewell which can, in brief, detail the life of the deceased, identify his or her loved ones, and as mentioned specify the arrangements that have been made by the family. A death notice's length may be somewhat dictated by the space available in the newspaper, but more often is dictated by the cost associated. Remember that the death notice needs to appear in print a day or two prior to the visitation and service. There are some cases where this may not be possible, therefore give some consideration to the guidelines below when composing the death notice.

What To Include?

Naturally, it is vital that the full name, along with the location and date of death is included so that there is no confusion over whom has died. You may wish to include maiden names to identify the person to old family friends.  Some will consider placing a photograph (which can appear as black and white or in color depending on the newspaper's layout) with the text. There are always extra charges applied if you are thinking of using a photograph. If you wish, mention where the deceased resided. This will normally only include the  city and region/state/province/county. The street is not included for reasons of security.

In a concise manner, write about the significant events in the life of the deceased. This may include the schools he or she attended and any degrees attained; you may also include any vocations or interests that the deceased was involved with.


It is common to include a list of those who have survived the deceased. The list should include (where applicable):

  • Spouse and children
  • Parents
  • Adopted children
  • Half and step children
  • Siblings
  • Half and step siblings
  • Grandparents

The surviving relatives listed above may be listed by name. Other relatives may not be mentioned by name but may be included in terms of their relationship to the deceased. In other words, the notice may mention that the deceased had 5 grandchildren; 7 nieces etc. However, exceptions to the above rule can be made if, for example, the deceased only had one grandchild or a nephew who was the only person living in the newspaper's distribution area. These exceptions are obviously made based on each individual case.

At this point list the details of the time and location of any services for the deceased: these may include the funeral, burial, visitation and/or memorial service where appropriate.

Some Do's & Don'ts

If you don't know where to start, do read other death notices to gain an idea of how personal and touching a notice may be.

Don't use the phrase "in lieu of flowers…" when memorial donations are to be requested. Instead merely start the final paragraph of the obituary with the words "Memorial donations may be made to…"   Some will send flowers anyway, or perhaps before reading the notice and you don't want anyone to feel as they have done something wrong.

Do consider if you wish to insert the notice in newspapers in other cities e.g. to a town where the deceased may have resided previously. Obtain copies of the death notice to send to distant relatives and friends.  Of course, within this website is the ability to send an electronic version to anywhere in the world, and people can send a condolence message to the family. 

Final Considerations

Any and all information to be included in the notice (spellings etc.) should be verified with another family member. Part of our service is to insert the notice in the papers selected by the family after helping with the composition. If you do so on your own, the newspaper will have to verify with us that the deceased is in fact being taken care of by our funeral home.

Every paper has a different deadline for notice insertion.  Some even change by the day of the week, so again, consult with the funeral staff to ensure you know what papers (or editions) you are able to publish in. 

Most newspapers charge by the word when placing an obituary, so it may not always be feasible to mention everything that we have stated in our guidelines. Use your own discretion and the guidance of the funeral director to determine what you would like to include and the approximate cost.  Once inserted the papers will provide an exact cost of insertion.  Changes can be made at that time as long as it is prior to deadline.