The death notice

Issuing a death notice is a common formality that publicly announces the death of a person. Because it is published in the press, it can reach a wider circle of friends and acquaintances. It is not the same thing as an announcement of death, which is sent to the family and to close friends of the deceased. This is usually sent out quickly to give details of the funeral so that people can make arrangements to attend. By contrast, notice of death can be published either before or after the funeral.

A small text that is governed by a few rules. Discover them in the rest of our article.

How to write a death notice: There are precise rules to be followed when writing a death notice. These can be grouped into four sections. The order shown below is that most frequently used, although some of the sections can be swapped around.

1st section

The first section indicates the persons announcing the death, citing their names and relation with the deceased. Tradition dictates the order in which these persons are listed, depending on the deceased person’s family situation.

If the deceased was married or living with someone:

  1. Spouse or partner
  2. Children and/or grandchildren plus their partners
  3. Siblings and their partners
  4. Parents
  5. Possibly also nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts

If the deceased was single:

  1. Parents
  2. Siblings and their partners
  3. Possibly also nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts

Colleagues and friends, and the company or association(s) of which the deceased was part, may also be mentioned. If the deceased was divorced, it is possible to mention the former wife or husband, depending on the state of the relations.

In first place, it is possible to indicate the towns and cities to which the notice is addressed.

This paragraph needs to be drafted sensitively to avoid hurting people’s feelings unnecessarily. Don’t forget to mention a member of the family here. Special care must be taken with reconstituted families.

2nd section

This paragraph starts with a sentence announcing the death and gives a presentation of the person. The name and age of the deceased should be mentioned here, together with place and date of death. In some cases the person’s military grade, medals and title can be added, as can the person’s profession. If the deceased was predeceased by their spouse, it is possible to note “widow of” after their name. If the deceased is buried or to be buried next to their spouse, it is possible to add, “He or she will rest next to his/her spouse”. For married women, the maiden name should be specified, i.e. “Mrs X born Y”.

3rd section

Next comes information on the type of ceremony (cremation or burial) and the type of religious celebration, if applicable. Lastly, specify the date, time and place of the ceremony. Here the family can set out how intimate they want the funeral to be and express their wishes as regards flowers (or gifts to charity). “Please do not sent flowers. Instead, please make a donation to …, which is conducting research into orphan diseases.” In the event that the death notice is published after the funeral, add a note along the lines of: “The funeral took place in the privacy of close family”.

4th section (optional) 

To conclude, you may indicate an address so that condolences can be passed on to the family. A death notice can replace an announcement of death, in which case end with the sentence “This notice serves as an announcement of death”. 

For a more personalized tribute, the death notice may be phrased as prose or poetry, if this is a more fitting reflection of the deceased person’s character and professional credentials.

Punctuation and layout rules for death notices: There are a few basic rules to follow:

  • Avoid too much punctuation
  • Proper nouns should be written in capitals
  • The name of the deceased should be placed centrally
  • Two lines per person or couple: the first giving the name(s) and the second noting the family relationship
  • If you cite the same of earlier deceased persons in the notice (e.g. parents or children of the deceased), it is customary to add to small cross in brackets after their name.
  • Photos can be added for an extra fee
  • A symbol can be displayed depending on what you wish to express (cross, Star of David, dove, …)

The death notice can be published on any type of media. The important thing is to follow the various conventions. It is the family’s prerogative if they want to make the notice more personal.

Publishing the death notice: If the death notice contains details of the ceremony, it should be published two to three days before the funeral.

Several solutions are possible:

  • For press or digital media, telephone your preferred newspaper, who will put you through to the right department. You will then be able to dictate your text and agree on the publishing date. To publish in the next day’s edition, the newspaper must be notified in the early afternoon of the previous day.
  • The funeral parlour is able to handle the announcement for a fee
  • You may also use an announcement site to publish the notice directly on the web
  • Websites such as republish the notices printed in 24heures and La Tribune de Genève. Families can post notices using this tribute website

Cost of publishing a death notice: For print media, the price varies by newspaper (whether it is local, national, or is prestigious) and the length of the text (calculated by the line or by word). The price varies between CHF 500 and CHF 1,000, e.g. CHF 1.81 ex VAT per column and per millimeter. On the website, publication will cost CHF 105 per canton.

Is a death notice mandatory? There is no legal obligation for families to publish a death notice or even send an announcement card. It is more like a tradition. In some communities, it is especially valued as a way of honoring the deceased. The family will not always know all the people to whom the deceased person was close. The purpose of the death notice is to inform the largest possible circle so that all friends and acquaintances are made aware.

A brief history of the death notice

Death notices have existed since the Middle Ages, when deaths were announced out loud. The bell-ringer would shout out the name of the deceased and inform the population about the date and time of the funeral. The town and village’s inhabitants were requested to pray for the salvation of the deceased person’s soul and to ring a bell out of respect. According to tradition, each close relative of the deceased would offer a drink to the bell-ringer, who often had trouble remembering names and funeral dates by the end of his round. With the advent of the printing press, death notices were posted on walls and church doors. Newspaper obituaries became common as the press reached all strata of society. Obituaries are still printed in newspapers although digital notices are starting to become the norm as well.


Using tooyoo, it is possible to write and store the text of a personal death notice and announcement card. In addition, to make matters easier for your close relatives, an address book can be created in which you can note the names and addresses of family and close friends.