How to Write an Online Obituary

Toss the template • Tell the story

Who says a good obit has to be deadly dull?

The traditional obituary is a gloomy collection of dry facts and chilly clichés. The internet has swept away space restrictions and made newspaper deadlines irrelevant. Social media has encouraged us to swap stories and celebrate our loved ones’ lives. Why should today’s tributes rely on the same dull script we followed 30 years ago? It’s time for the old-school obit to slip into something more contemporary. We’ll show you step by step how to write a fresh, original tribute and create a memorable virtual memorial featuring photos, videos, and music. We live in a colorful world—let’s give our loved ones a brilliant send-off.

Melissa Jayne Kinsey

Melissa Jayne Kinsey

I'm out to prove that obituaries don't have to be blunt-force instruments of monotony and gravitas. We're human. Miscalculations, blunders, and gaffes are part of the deal. Nothing wrong with a little Turtle Wax, but we don't need to buff out every flaw. Instead, we can celebrate our loved ones' lives (or sum up our own) in tributes that are thoughtful, intimate, and funny. We can tell the stories of real, three-dimensional people with warmth and sincerity. I hope the content of this site will help you do just that. If you're having trouble with a specific issue or you just need some ideas, please email me, or tweet to @onlineobits. I'd be happy to help.

Free Quick-Start Guide to Writing an Online Obituary

Quick-Start Guide to Writing an Obit

Examples, Ideas, & Advice for a Fresh, Original Tribute

How to Write an Online Obituary book cover

Image orientation

Image Orientation for Online Memorials

As you put together a virtual memorial, a gallery or slideshow for an online obituary, a memorial Pinterest board, a family tree, or any other memorial or genealogy project, image optimization is important. One aspect of image optimization is image orientation. If...
For generational context, historical photos can be compared with period fashion illustrations.

Using Historical Photos in a Virtual Memorial

Whether you're building an online obituary, putting together a full-fledged virtual memorial, creating a mood board, or preparing any other sort of online tribute or genealogy project, supplementing your own images with historical photos and illustrations can help...
Blog post image, Charlotte Roach Vierheller

Is It Sexist to Use an Old Photo in a Woman’s Obituary?

Fifteen or 20 years ago, I had an elderly neighbor who chain smoked, panicked during thunderstorms, and called 911 every few months out of sheer loneliness. One day when I stopped by to chat, she asked me to wait a moment—there was something she wanted to show me. She...
Virtual Memorial Websites and Apps Comparison Chart

Virtual Memorial Websites and Apps

List and Comparison of Virtual Memorial Cost and Features If you anticipate a death in the family or if you're in the funeral business, you might find it useful to have a list of virtual memorial/digital memorial/digital afterlife/end-of-life websites and apps. The...
Digital objects or digital artifacts are a rip-off

Digital Objects Are a Virtual Rip-Off

I’m all for capitalism. But paying to light a virtual candle or leave a virtual rose is the digital equivalent of buying a pet rock: Buyers receive little or nothing of real value in exchange for their money.

Data mining is being used to collect medical information from online obituaries.

Medical Data Mining in Online Obituaries

Patients who withdraw from medical research studies sometimes can’t be contacted—in medical jargon, they’re said to have been “lost to follow-up.” Did the experimental drug or procedure work? The outcome among the drop-outs is unknown.

Don't rely on clichés to express your grief when someone close to you dies.

The Simple Mistake That Guarantees a Schmaltzy Obituary

Here’s the wrenching conclusion to a young father’s obituary. What do you think—sweet or schmaltzy?

Confine the preaching to the sidewalk. An obituary is no place for it.

Grandmother’s Obituary Used to Scold Sinners

An obituary shouldn't be a platform for the obituarist's own hatred, shame, or guilt. In an obituary for his grandmother, Joshua Fischer denounces our “selfish desires” and deplores our “lying, stealing, cheating, taking of innocent life, adultery, fornication,...