Books, Literature, montana, social justice, Writing

What’s with the WIFES?

I’ve been asked several times whether the title of my forthcoming book, Goodbye Wifes and Daughters, contains a typo or misspelling. The answer to both questions is NO. It’s supposed to say Wifes. I’ve known how how to make the word wife plural since 4th grade. The misspelling is a direct quote from the note some of the miners wrote as they were dying.

“Goodbye wifes and daughters. We died an easy death. Love from us both. Be good.”

I put a lot of thought into whether to keep their incorrect grammar or to clean and edit it, something that journalists should almost always avoid when quoting sources. I worried that the word WIFES highlighted the miners’ lack of education and took away some of their much-deserved dignity – that it made them look stupid and made me look as if I feel superior to them. But I was encouraged to keep the word as originally written because it reflects exactly who they were. I was also told that the misspelling might pique readers’ curiosity enough to get them to pick up the book, which is what a title should do, right?
If you’re reading this and you know how to post a message to me, give me your thoughts. Should it stay WIFES or be changed to WIVES?


  1. I vote to definitely keep it as WIFES. I am loathe to find good reasons for journalists to clean up quotes (though I know there are a few) just for the sake of grammatical correctness.
    WIFES is factually accurate, a quote from a unique written source that is material to the story. As you say, it reflects who these people were, and just as important, it reflects who they were at the very moment they were writing the note.
    And as you say, an intriguing titles always helps in the marketing!
    Good luck.

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