How to Write an Online Obituary

Colorful stories for modern lives
Melissa Jayne Kinsey

Melissa Jayne Kinsey

For 20+ years, I’ve had the privilege of doing interesting work with smart, funny people. I’m currently a senior technical writer helping the awesome engineers at Bayer Crop Science develop digital farming software.

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?

Casting about for direction but finding little, 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.