Here are some ideas for writing and delivering a eulogy.
An obituary can serve as an
inspiration or background reference for a funeral eulogy. I have even
attended funerals where the entire obituary from the newspaper was read
out as the main part of the eulogy. So, the better the obituary, the better
First, some definitions. (Adapted from dictionary.com.)
- a notice (for example in a newspaper) of a person's death, often with
an account of their life and work.
- a laudatory speech or written tribute, especially praising someone
who has died.
- a funeral poem
- a commemorative inscription on a tombstone. Also: a brief poem or statement in praise of a
- funeral rite or ceremony. Usually used in the plural.
In summary, then, while an obituary is a written form, the eulogy is
usually spoken, especially at a funeral. Preparing a eulogy should
follow a similar path as preparing an obituary, as detailed
elsewhere on this website. The eulogy, of course, has the usual added
component of being read aloud. The performance aspect can be
difficult, especially for those not used to public speaking and
considering the emotional timing.
For a look at eulogies in a larger context, see Helping
Families Deal with Death "Most Satisfying Work" for Funeral Celebrant.
An excellent free resource on how to write and present a eulogy has
been created by
Co-operative Funeralcare in the U.K. This guide, entitled Well Chosen
Words, is available for free download in pdf format. This
booklet has several sections on preparing a eulogy: gathering
thoughts about the deceased and the anticipated audience; organizing
your ideas into a eulogy; and suggestions for eulogy public
“Eulogies are for everyone. They are a reminder that each of
us leads a life of special interest and value, and that each of us is
unique, with our own special gifts,” says Andrew Morton,
Britain’s Poet Laureate, in the Foreword to Well Chosen
Words. “The eulogist’s task is to
bring the deceased into the mind’s eye of the congregation
– and to let us remember their voice and their manner, to let
us share their interests, to let us appreciate their qualities, to let
us enjoy their company a moment longer.”
"Eulogies are the most moving kind of speech,"
writes speechwriter Peggy Noonan, in her book about working
for President Ronald Reagan, What
I Saw at the Revolution.
"It is a
challenge to look at a life and organize our thoughts about it and try
to explain to ourselves what it meant, and the most moving part is the
element of implicit celebration. Most people aren't appreciated enough
. . . No one throws ticker tape on the man who chose to be
faithful to his wife . . . All this anonymous heroism. A
eulogy gives us a chance to celebrate it."
Tips for Writing a
for a presentation of a few minutes. As a
guideline, for a five-minute spoken eulogy, write 500 words.
the organizing structure. Several different
approaches to organizing your material when writing a eulogy are
suggested in the booklet Well Chosen
Words. These are: chronological (from youth to old age);
reverse chronological (start with the most recent stage of life);
summarizing in three points; or using one inclusive theme.
for speaking. Avoid a formal written approach;
write as you would speak.
about using notes only. Accomplished speakers
often use only notes in point form to create a more
conversational style. Reading a text verbatim can sound stilted and
unnatural. However, reading verbatim can be used effectively
for the less experienced public speaker, to overcome nervousness, or to
prevent being overwhelmed with emotion. If using a poem or other
quotation, read exactly from a text.
Rehearse what you are going to say. Keep in mind that your
audience will be sympathetic. Speak deliberately. Speak slowly. Have a
glass of water handy. Breathe deeply.
- Have a
standby. If you are feeling too nervous or
emotional, give your eulogy to someone else to present. That person can
be asked beforehand to read it, or at least be ready to step in if
needed. (This person could be the funeral celebrant.)
results of Amazon.com for eulogy.
Funeral Readings / Poems Bookshelf Search
results of Amazon.com for funeral readings and poems.
Well Chosen Words An
excellent comprehensive free
guide on how to write a eulogy, by
Co-operative Funeralcare in the U.K.
On Speaking Well: How to Give a Speech With Style, Substance, and Clarity by political speechwriter Peggy Noonan.
Families Deal with Death "Most Satisfying Work" for Funeral Celebrant
Writing: Ten Tips