How to Write an Online Obituary

Colorful stories for modern lives
Melissa Jayne Kinsey

Melissa Jayne Kinsey

I have the privilege of doing interesting work with smart, funny people. I’m currently a tech writer helping the clever architects at Charter Communications.

Quick-Start Guide to Writing an Online Obituary

 Capt. Dick Martin, USAF pilot, at Cam Ranh Air Base, Vietnam, 1969

Capt. Richard L. “Dick” Martin, Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, 1969.

My Story

Writing a good obituary for my dad turned out to be trickier than I thought. Where to begin? Which stories and details would set his obit apart from tributes to other beloved fathers, grandfathers, and military veterans?

My Google searches for tips on obituary writing turned up only predictable suggestions: be brief, pound out a string of clichés, append a superfluous list of survivors, and toss in a few harps and angels. The resulting “death notice” is so bland, it could pass for a LinkedIn profile. My dad deserved more than a listicle of job titles and relatives—doesn’t everyone?

Finding little help online, I applied what I knew of writing in general and tried to do justice to his remarkable life. When I was finished, I resolved to help others who want to remember their loved ones (or write their own obituaries) with warmth, authenticity, and a bit of chutzpah.