Grammar

Are Death Euphemisms Better? It Depends on Whom You Ask

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When writing obituaries or sharing news of someone’s demise, we often turn to death euphemisms to ease the blow. But for some style guides, that’s a no-no.

There are almost as many death euphemisms out there as there are ways people can die.

A friend of mine likes to say someone who died “went home to Glory.” I’ve read online obituaries that stated someone “entered into eternal rest.”

“Passed away” can also serve as a way to refer to someone’s death. (The challenge with this particular phrase, unfortunately, is it’s the victim of people who mishear the words. Some will say someone “past away,” which is incorrect.)

Some death euphemisms can be tongue in cheek, even whimsical. One can “cash in his chips” or “kick the bucket.” You can even “knock on Heaven’s door” — at least we hope it’s Heaven’s door and not that other one.

You can “pay the piper” or “push up the daisies.”

Some words present a more tranquil mental picture. Someone can “rest in peace” or “enter eternal sleep.” One can “reach their journey’s end” or “cross over.”

And that’s only a few of the many, many options out there.

But while such words and phrases may make us feel a little more comfortable with the thought of our own mortality, they’re not universally accepted.

The Associated Press Stylebook, a style guide that many news outlets follow, makes it clear:

Don’t use euphemisms like “passed on” or “passed away” except in a direct quote.

I see both sides.

Some feel saying someone died is a bit harsh, particularly in a headline.

Others feel that a euphemism is too much of an attempt to hide the reality.

Whether you use a death euphemism really depends on the style guide that dictates your writing. I mostly follow AP Style here, although in some ways, I deviate a bit.

This is one that I reserve the right to do so. It really can depend on the situation.

How do you feel about death euphemisms? Do you feel they are more compassionate or that they dodge the reality of the situation?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.