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Exercise 3: Writing Obituaries

INSTRUCTIONS: Write an obituary based on the information given below. Use your judgment, based on what you have read in this chapter, in deciding whether to use the most controversial details. Write the obituary in Associated Press style and use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation.

  1. Write an obituary for another student in your class. Assume the student died of unknown causes early today and the student's funeral arrangements have not yet been made. Do not write a news story about the person's death, but an obituary about his or her life. Include the student's philosophy and goals and interesting experiences or major accomplishments. You might also describe the student's physical traits. Avoid generalities and clichés.

  2. During a two-hour class period, go out onto your campus and look for two people together, both strangers to you. With their consent, interview one of those persons about the "deceased" other person. Continue the interview until you obtain some good (specific) quotations about the "deceased." Then return to your classroom and write an obituary before the end of the period. Assume the person died of unknown causes early today and the funeral arrangements have not yet been made.

  3. Write an in-depth obituary for a celebrity. Briefly report the person died of unknown causes at home last night and the funeral has not been scheduled. Do not make up any other facts or report only what you remember about the person. Instead, use your campus library to thoroughly research the person's character and accomplishments. (Consult and, on a separate page, list a minimum of 10 sources you used while writing the obituary.)
    After your lead, immediately report additional highlights—interesting and important details—that help describe the person's life, character and accomplishments. Avoid dull lists, and avoid reporting the information in chronological order. More routine details (such as the person's place of birth, education and survivors) should be placed near the end of the obituary, not near the lead.
    Celebrities about whom you might write an obituary include musicians, athletes, political figures, journalists, entertainers and authors. You might write an obituary on your mayor, governor, senator or representative.

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