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Tips to Keep in Mind When Deciding on a Headstone Inscription

By June 27, 2022 August 1st, 2022 No Comments
Mossy granite headstone beneath cherry tree in graveyard with surrounding tombs.

A headstone is going to mark the resting place of your loved one for centuries to come, maybe longer. For that reason alone memorials are a big deal. Therefore the inscription you choose for your loved one’s gravestone should never be one that’s chosen at random or in an off-the-cuff manner. Below are 10 tips that will help ensure you choose an appropriate headstone inscription.

10 Useful Tips for Choosing Inscriptions for Headstones

The following tips have been used for centuries by families looking for just the right inscription for their loved one’s tombstone. Keep them close when the time comes for you to make a choice.

1: Don’t rush

A headstone is a historical item, one that will tell the tale of your loved one for generations to come. It’s important you take your time and think through everything from the font, to any graphic flourishes and, of course, the inscription. By the time the artisan is ready to engrave the stone, you should be completely satisfied with what will be included. Not just okay with it; completely satisfied and at peace with it.

2. Don’t be trendy

Believe it or not, no industry is immune from trends, including headstones for graves. But it’s crucial that you don’t succumb to those trends. Always aspire to something timeless, both in the look of the stone and the inscription. Typically, that means eschewing sans-serif fonts or highly stylized lettering. A classic serif font will look just as good and appropriate 100 years from now as it does today, whether you choose all-caps or a mixture of upper and lowercase letters.

3: Say no to humor

Even if the deceased was known to be the life of the party and was always ready with a humorous retort you should avoid humor on their gravestone. The thing is, just as styles change so too does humor. What is considered funny today might be considered offensive, or at least in bad taste, 100 years from now. Tombstones and other memorials have a pretty simple task: to reflect well on the deceased over time. The original intention of a humorous inscription is likely to be lost over time.

4. Keep it simple

Fashion titan Coco Chanel had a simple rule she was fond of imparting to anyone who would listen: “Take one thing off before leaving the house.” She understood that understated is always more timeless and tasteful than overstated. When choosing an inscription for a headstone you should be guided by the same “less is more” ideal. Always opt for the simpler statement over something wordy or verbose.

5. Avoid clutter

This is related to tip #4 in that it speaks to the same “less is more” ethos. In order to achieve a truly timeless look, it’s important that the individual elements of the design, including the inscription, have room to breathe. Empty, or “negative” space provides room for the mind to rest and for the viewer to relax and reflect. A crowded design will produce an uneasy feeling in the visitor, something no gravestone should ever do.

6: Aim for emotional communication

At its heart, all art is emotional communication, and that is certainly the case with headstone inscriptions. Whether the person is being buried in Miami, New York or Littleton, Colorado the inscription should seek to communicate a simple emotional truth. With that in mind, something like “A kind and loving soul” has more emotional resonance than “Everyone who ever came in contact with him benefitted from his good humor, his caring nature and his willingness to listen”.

7: When in doubt, ask the pros

If you are struggling a bit trying to nail down a timeless and appropriate inscription ask the team at Mile High Memorials. We are not ones to interfere with the family’s decision-making process, but if our customers want our input we are only too happy to abide them. Gravestones are what we do and over the years we have seen every conceivable type of gravestone inscription. We know what works and what doesn’t.

8: Be forward-thinking

Before making any decision a person should ask himself or herself “Will I be happy with this choice tomorrow?” That kind of thought process can help prevent impulsive decisions that will come back to haunt you in the long run. So before deciding on a headstone inscription ask yourself “Will I be comfortable with this choice tomorrow? What about next month, or next year, or 5 years from now?” If the answer is “no” or you are not sure then you should explore other options before making a final decision.

9: Lean on the classics

If you are having trouble finding unique words that will memorialize your loved one for posterity, there is no harm in leaning on the classics. For instance, the rock star Jim Morrison, himself no stranger to spinning poetic lines, has a simple Latin inscription on his gravestone that reads: “Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy” or “true to his own spirit”. It perfectly captures the spirit of the man, his life and his work.

10: Don’t make the decision alone

The choice of inscription should, if possible, be made in consultation with others who were also close to the deceased. It is likely someone else can provide a different perspective on the deceased that will help you choose an inscription that more accurately reflects their spirit and their impact on those around them.