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Writing the Obituary

Posted on April 26, 2019 at 9:55 AM

There are still a few funeral service professionals on the planet who can remember when newspapers had reporters who would actually craft obituaries. Enter the computer and the paid obituary inspiring families to place any and all information about the deceased in a final tribute which in many cases out-shines the actual funeral ceremony itself.


This can range from, “growing the largest tomato plant in the neighborhood” to the person who “read the Bible every day – and their favorite sentence, verse, chapter was (yes, some will insert the verbiage regardless of the cost).

Here are a few tips from journalism 101. Refer to the five “W’s” without fail

WHO (Spell the name correctly and use the first name only once in each paragraph)

WHAT (Nature of the death)

WHEN (Day, Date and Time of Death)

WHERE (Don’t guess)

WHY (Consider burying the lead.) This occurs when the opening portion of the story does not quickly identify the subject. For example: Known for his quiet, dignified manner, he was often referred to as the father of modern trash dumping, but few people knew the man behind the myth, nor understood his theories.

None of these objections concerned Dr. John Doe, who died at his Jethro Hollow residence on Tuesday, following a long illness

BE COOL

BE COOL is an acronym used to assist in an orderly incorporation of the details in composing an obituary from this point down to the service details:

B – birthplace

E – education

C – church membership

O – occupation

O – organizations belonged to

L – left behind (survivors)

SNOWCAP

A snowcap is any term or expression, (not to be confused with an epigraph) which describes the deceased. It can be spiritual in nature, for example: went to be with the Lord, or surrounded by his family.

Another snowcap could be a mention of a life experience such as: John Doe, the man who lived in a cave throughout his adult life, died Tuesday at City Hospital where he was admitted last week.

EPIGRAPH

An epigraph (not to be confused with an epitaph) is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document. The epigraph may serve as a preface or to link its words to the story, either to invite comparison or to lead into its content.

An example used in an obituary would be a first line that read: Across the fields of yesterday, he sometimes comes to me; the little lad of two or three, the lad I used to be.

John Doe, a longtime advocate for the youth of Hard City, died Tuesday at Union Hospital from complications of heart failure.

EPITAPH

 

An epitaph is an expression which normally appears on a tombstone, but could also be used as part of a eulogy.




PERSONAL PRONOUNS, CONJUCTIONS AND VERBS

Avoid beginning every sentence with “He or She was born. He or She worked at. He or she wrote several books…” Rather “Born in Hard City, Nebraska (do not abbreviate state names) on July 4, 1776, he was the author of the Declaration of Independence and belonged to several lodges including Elks Lodge 122, Lodge 315 F&AM and along with the Al Koran Shrine of Cleveland.


DEATH BY SUICIDE

With the coming of age of the “paid obituary,” survivors can control the manner in which a death is reported.

In the case of a suicide it may simply be stated: died on Tuesday at Hard City, Ohio.



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