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

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Press Release: Ooooh, fancy!

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Graphic representation of the rights granted by each Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons vs. Public Domain: What’s the Difference?

“Public domain” is one of several types of Creative Commons licenses. But let’s back up a sec. What’s a Creative Commons license? When a copyright holder, such as a book author or musician, agrees to let others use his or her work for free, the work is distributed...
Mindmap used to write barf draft of obituary for Art Ellefsen.

Sample Mindmap for Arthur Ellefsen

A mindmap or wordcloud is a visual collection (or just a list will do the trick) of 10 or 12 specific details about your loved one. Later, you'll create your barf draft simply by turning each of the words and phrases on your mindmap into a sentence. Your wordcloud or...

Sample Barf Draft for Arthur Ellefsen

Creating a barf draft of an obituary is a quick way to get rid of that blank screen and generate some raw material to work with. For this barf draft, we used the mindmap we created earlier. This barf draft is worthy of the name and proves Hemingway was spot-on when he...
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Lost to Follow-Up: Online Obits Supply Missing Data in Clinical Trials

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A Few Regrets…Still Missing My Friend Maggie

In my late 20s, in the ladies room of the local animal shelter where I was a volunteer, I overheard an attractive woman in her 50s say she’d decided to move to Scottsdale simply because she liked it there. Wait, who does that? Intrigued, I asked her to meet me for coffee and tell me more.

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Destination Funerals: Cremation Allows a Change of Scenery

Cremation has made it possible to hold a memorial well after the time of death, giving rise to the so-called destination funeral. “Just as marriages have moved away from religious buildings and register offices,” says London’s Daily Mail, “now people want to take...
Richard L. "Dick" Martin

Saying Goodbye to My Dad

Capt. Richard L. “Dick” Martin, Cam Ranh Air Base, Vietnam, 1969, standing next to a C-17 Caribou like the one pictured, which I found among his Vietnam photos. On the back of the color photo, he wrote “Ahh—shade. Somewhere in Vietnam.”

Writing this piece for Slate in 2014 is what first got me thinking about the role of technology in saying goodbye to a loved one. It was really personal to me, especially the last nine or ten paragraphs. Hope you have a moment to read it.

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Transcribing (Yawn!!) Audio

The word “transcription” comes from a Latin word meaning “tedious.” OK, not really, but it should. Transcription is a mind-numbing task, but it’s a necessary one if you have a trove of family audiotapes.