How to Write a Newspaper Memorial

by Ronna Pennington
A newspaper memorial shares more personal information than that of an obituary.

A newspaper memorial shares more personal information than that of an obituary.

There is a difference between newspaper death notices, like an obituary and memorial. Generally, the obituary subscribes to the form and style determined by the media printing it and contains just basic information on the deceased. That can include the age and cause of death, as well as any burial info and where donations are appreciated. A memorial, by comparison, provides a more complete glimpse of the deceased's life and strives to capture those facts and nuances, That can list children and grandchildren by name, mention special friends, pets, religious beliefs, career achievements, favorite activities, and more. Most newspapers charge a higher fee for printing a memorial, although funeral homes and other handlers can help the bereaved in the process..

Gather Basic Information

Note who died and verify the age at the time of death. List the cause of death, and whether it was sudden, an accident or resulted after a battle with terminal illness. Include the day, date -- with the year -- and place of the death.

Writing where and how is optional and offers personal choice. For some survivors, it is important to detail whether the deceased expired at home, surrounded by friends and family, or in a hospital, receiving treatment by the best medical professionals.

List when and where funeral or memorial services will be held as well as whether there will be cremation or interment. If visitors will be received, list where and when that is allowed.

Gather Personal Information

Mention who preceded the deceased in death, with any details and descriptors surrounding that information. For instance, a person's parents might be described as loving or hardworking, etc.

Detail who survives the deceased. In a memorial, survivors can be referred to in a more personal way. For instance, instead of simply naming the widowed wife, a description can be employed: his loving and faithful companion for 60 years. Rather than listing one great-grandchild as in an obit, a memorial may name that great-grandchild along with activities enjoyed by her and the deceased or other personal detail.

Reference what the deceased enjoyed, including those events/activities in which he participated and was particularly passionate about. That may include Bible study groups, civic organizations, or charitable groups, with extra info like he never missed weekly wresting on television or was an avid reader.

Say where the deceased lived, worked, and attended school. This aspect might also include where he enjoyed vacationing or his favorite places to visit. Consider describing how he made a difference in the lives of loved ones and why he will be missed. If this seems too personal, it can be omitted.

Write the Memorial

Refer to the newspaper's memorial policy by noting the deadline and possible word limit. Some policies also provide sample obits and memorials to help in the creation process. Explore the addition of a favorite photo of the deceased or the logo of a religious or fraternal icon.

Prepare the memorial, starting with the basic information, and weaving in the personal data as previously detailed.

Complete the memorial with information about the funeral or memorial services, interment and any specifics about donations, flowers or other gifts. If visitation is allowed, list where and when the family will be receiving visitors. Submit the completed memorial to the newspaper following submission guidelines outlined in the company policy.

Items you will need

  • Paper or computer
  • Writing utensil
  • Copy of newspaper's memorial policy
  • List of deceased's family members
  • Deceased's career accomplishments
  • Social contacts/interests of deceased
  • Favorite photo of deceased

Tips

  • While obituaries are shorter on word use, each newspaper has its own style of describing death. Study other memorials to see what is allowed or encouraged and choose phrases that fit within that realm. It may be OK to include phrases that are more comforting to the family, since it's in essence an ad, so instead of saying someone died, the memorial is the place to say that the person passed into eternal life or similar.
  • Choose a family member or friend who enjoys writing to put together the memorial, and consider having extras printed to have on hand at the services.

Warnings

  • Include as much or as little personal information in a memorial as desired, but be aware not to say too much for safety reasons. Telling when and where all the family will be at a given time can provide an open invitation for robbery of their homes and cars or break-ins of the deceased's property.
  • Be sure to watch for word limits dictated by the newspaper's policy. Some newspapers charge a flat rate memorial fee but others charge by word or inch. Verify all charges ahead of time and make sure any extras, like photos, are included in that price quote. Find out if you are allowed to proofread the piece before it is printed.
  • Submit the completed memorial to the newspaper and verify when and how many times it will appear, especially if counting on public awareness of the death prior to funeral or burial services.

About the Author

Ronna Pennington, an experienced newspaper writer and editor, began writing full-time in 1989. Her professional crafting experience includes machine embroidery and applique. When she's not repainting her den or making new holiday decorations, Ronna researches and writes community histories. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and an Master of liberal arts in history.

Photo Credits

  • Jeff Randall/Photodisc/Getty Images