Waggons West Etsy Shop

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ranking the Most Common Initials in the United States


One of the common problems for people who do craft shows is figuring out what to sell.  This gets to be really complicated when you create items with names or monograms.  One way around it is to do single letter monograms.  With 26 letters in the alphabet, it can be expensive to prepare items in all 26 letters and in all colors and styles.  I ran into this problem with the embroidered toilet paper I was making before the holidays. 

I decided to do a bit of research and see if I could come up with a rough ranking for the most common single letter initials  I figured that some people will buy their first initial and others will purchase their last initial.  So a combination of both initials seemed in order.  I found lists of the most common last name in the US today as well as lists of the most common first names, male and female, over the last 100 years.  I did a quick count of the number of names in each category that started with each letter.  

Last Name          Male First Name             Female First Name
R                               J                                           J  
M                              R                                         M
W, B, C                     A                                       A, D
S, P                            B                                       C, S
G, H                        S, D                                     K, L
T                                P                                         B
J, L                        C, E,G, H                            E, R, T
A, F                         K, T, W                                 H
D, K, E, N                   N                                   G, N, P, V
Y, O                         Z, V, F                                 F, O

I didn't include numbers because, honestly, I didn't spend the time cross checking to  make sure they added up properly.  Remember, this is just a quick attempt to score monograms for likely popularity.    Out of 100 names in each category the top letter represents 11 - 18 percent.  The second row is 10 - 11 percent.  The bottom numbers represent one percent.  

The letters I, Q, U and X do not appear on any of these lists.

In order to get a better picture of which letters are relatively more common, I made up a ranking system.  I weighted each letter each column in the order they occur top to bottom.  I used 10 for the top row and 1 for last row.  I did that simply because there are 10 rows of letters.  This isn't entirely fair because the R in last names represents 11 percent of last name initials while the J in male names is 18 percent.  I could go back and to a percent ranking but that would take another sheet of paper in my notebook or I'd have to go all modern and set up a spread sheet.  So, I made it up.  We are talking relative numbers here and no one is going to bet the farm on using these as more than kinda sorta guidelines..  right?

I then added up the rank score for each letter.   For example:

R = 10 + 9 + 4  = 23
10 for being in the first row of last name initials
9 for being in the second row of male names
4 for being in the sixth row of female names
= a ranked score of 23.

Thus the top letters for monogrammed items should* be:

B, S
A, C
G, T
K, W
E, L
Y, Z

With no requests for I, Q, U, X

*Should assumes that people purchase lettered items in direct proportion to their occurrence in the list of first and last male and female names.  However, one might imagine that Tiffany in row 7 of the female names might be more likely to purchase a letter key chain than Joe in row 1 of the male names or vice versa.  I have no way to account for those variables.  

If your audience is primarily female you might choose to use the order for female first initials or use the following ranking which combines last names with female first initials.

J, R, S
D, L
H, P, T
G, K
and no I, Q, U, W,  X, Y, or Z 

That does shift things around quite a bit. Remember, the data I started with were the common names for last 100 years.  That means it includes popular names from ALL generations.  If you have a young customer base, these initials are going to be weighted with names like Mary and Ruth that are not as common today.  You will have to look at lists of common baby names from the correct era to get a closer approximation of the letters that are in the realm of likely to sell.  Other factors that will certainly have an impact on the letters your customers buy will be regional and ethnic differences.  A look at local

 Perhaps this will help in determining how to spend your time when making single initial items.  Perhaps not  Prepping for a craft show is something of crap shoot.  So take this 'research' for what it is worth and certainly don't bet the farm.  Just because I think these might be common letters does NOT in any way shape or form mean that these are the monograms that will sell. 


  1. Thank you for putting in the time to research, analyze and publish this information. It's extremely helpful.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to develop and publish this. It is brilliant.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to research, compile and publish this list!

  4. I appreciate this post, I have just started offering a monogram/initial option and this is very helpful!

  5. Thank you for the time you took to do this and explain it so well.

  6. So, how did this work out for you? Did your sales correspond to your list? Crafty minds want to know! Thanks!

  7. Quite a lot of work! Thanks for sharing. This is exactly what I needed when I searched for most popular monograms.

  8. This is good. Thank you