Writing an Obituary

What is an obituary?

More than merely a "good-bye" to the deceased, this is a farewell which details the life of the deceased. An obituary also serves as notification that an individual has passed away as well as details of the memorial service(s). It's best to check how much room you have before you begin writing the obituary because there may be limited space in the newspaper. Remember that the obituary needs to appear in print a few days prior to the memorial service. There are some cases where this may not be possible, therefore we have given you some things to consider below.

What to include?

Naturally, it is vital that the full name, along with the location and date of passing is included so that there is no confusion over who has died. You may wish to consider placing a photograph (which can appear as black & white or in color depending on the newspaper's layout) with the text. There are usually extra charges applied if you are thinking of using a photograph. If you wish, mention where the deceased resided. This will normally only include the street, city and region/state/province/county. The street number is not normally included for reasons of security. In a concise manner, write about the significant events in the life of the deceased. This may include the schools he or she attended and any degrees attained; you may also include any vocations or interests with which the deceased was involved.

Survivors

It is common to include a list of those who have survived the deceased. The list should include (where applicable):

  • Parents
  • Spouse and children
  • Adopted children
  • Half & step children
  • Siblings
  • Half- & step-siblings
  • Grandparents

The surviving relatives listed above may be listed by name. Other relatives will not be mentioned by name but may be included in terms of their relationship to the deceased. For example, the obituary may mention that the deceased had 5 grandchildren; 7 nieces etc. However, exceptions to the above rule can be made if the deceased only had one grandchild or a nephew who was the only person living in the newspaper's distribution area. These exceptions are obviously made based on each individual case. Also, anyone listed as a special friend or companion is not normally included amongst the list of survivors unless the deceased's blood relatives request that it be so. The obituary's traditional purpose is to list survivors either related through the bloodline or marriage. Additional information such as where the body will be laid to rest and any pallbearer's names or names of honorary pallbearers may be mentioned. At this point list the details of the time and location of any services for the deceased: these may include the funeral, burial, wake and memorial service where appropriate.

 Do's & Don'ts

If you don't know where to start, read other obituaries to gain an idea of how personal and touching an obituary may be.

Don't use the phrase "in lieu of flowers" when memorial donations are to be requested. Instead merely start the final paragraph of the obituary with the words "Memorial donations may be made to."

Do consider, if you wish, to send the obituary to newspapers in other cities e.g. to a town where the deceased may have resided previously. Obtain copies of the obituary to send to distant relatives and friends.

Final Considerations

Any and all information to be included in the obituary should be verified with another family member. A newspaper will have to verify with the funeral home being utilized that the deceased is in fact being taken care of by that funeral home.

Seeing as most newspapers charge by the word when placing an obituary, it may not always be feasible to mention everything that you would like. Use your own discretion and do not put yourself under any financial hardship. Your loved one would understand.

Rapid City Journal Obituary Policy

The Rapid City Journal deadline for obituaries to be published on Sundays is 2pm Friday and the deadline for obituaries to be published on Mondays is noon Sunday. The weekday deadline is 3pm.

The Journal offers two kinds of obituaries:

  • A standard obituary will list the name, age, residence of the deceased; date of death; branch of military service; and funeral arrangements. Obituaries for veterans will display an American flag. There is no charge for this obituary.
  • A memorial obituary, for which there is a charge, allows family or friends to fashion the obituary to their particular specifications. In addition to information for the standard obituary, you may add information about the person’s life, work, community activities, awards or honors, special interests or anything else you feel is important. Obituary information must be provided by the funeral home handling arrangements.

The name and city of the funeral home in charge of arrangements must be included for publication of any obituary. The Journal does not take obituaries over the telephone. The best way to submit an obituary is to have the funeral home email it to obits@rapidcityjournal.com. If you have questions about the Journal's obituary policy, you may call obituary desk at 605-394-8420 from 8:30am to 3:00pm Monday through Friday.

If you need additional help, please contact us.

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