Many people neglect to make the very important distinction between death notices and obituaries despite the fact that they are completely different entities. When examined closely, it is easy to understand that while both are required and helpful in the honouring of the deceased, their differences are important and the two should not be confused.
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The greatest difference between a simple death notice and an obituary is length. A death notice is usually a hastily put together announcement that an individual has passed away, and includes only the person's name, immediate family members, dates of birth and death, and information about funeral arrangements. An obituary includes these same features, but also goes much more in depth in terms of extended family members, their spouses and other loved ones, and often includes more details about funeral arrangements, including where flowers or other messages of condolence can be sent.
The most important element of an obituary is to pay homage to a person's life and the way in which they spent it. A death notice features no information whatsoever about the deceased's profession, charity involvement or club associations. An obituary, however, is written more as a mini-biography of the deceased's life, giving readers some insight into who the person was, how they lived and who they loved. Obituaries also sometimes feature photographs of the deceased at the heading of the write-up, while death notices never do.
Cause of Death
Unless a family or loved one decides otherwise, the cause of death of the deceased is usually featured at the very beginning of the obituary, while the cause of death is very seldom featured in a death notice. A typical obituary may read something like "John Smith, at the age of 51, lost his courageous battle with cancer"; or "Mary Jane was killed tragically in a roadside accident at the age of 27." Knowing the cause of death also helps readers decide if they would like to make a donation in the deceased's name to a particular charity or organisation.
While it may seem like a tacky concern at the time of one's death, a major difference between a death notice and an obituary is the cost of each. A death notice is free; it is often included in the classified section of a newspaper under "announcements" along with other notices of name changes, births, business closures or bankruptcies. Obituaries, however, do cost money, and the cost of one becomes greater as the length increases. Other factors that may add to the cost of an obituary include adding photos or logos of an association or group the deceased was a member of.
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