In 2006, we began to compile an archive of every winning submission (also called entry or essay) since 1993. Since the essays had previously been key typed into a word processing application, none of the submissions could be used in any type of calculation. This required the tedious process of copying and pasting each individual submission into a spreadsheet application. After many years of this work, many people can now come to our headquarters and enjoy perusing individual words or phrases used by students since 1993.
Looking deep into this massive archive, it is a remarkable study of how school kids perceive their mothers and the thoughts that are in their minds. Since the wording and instruction of the assignment, “Why Mom Deserves a Diamond,” has remained precisely the same, the archive had become a large and rich database of heartfelt love letters about moms written by Orange County kids. More intense analysis of this data will one day become an important study of psychology and will determine the gradual shift of social values of grade school students over a twenty-three year period. This will be interesting to understand how we have changed as a society.
The 2015 Archive contains 2,298,436 words from 93,047 authors. There are a total of 15,820 unique words.
Future studies will be interesting to determine how many times a particular word was used by authors during any contest year. However, because the amount of submissions increased over the years, along with the fact that the word limit decreased, it will be necessary to factor that into any calculation. Because of this gradual change of quantity of essays versus number of words contained in each essay, it would not be accurate to compare any word choice according to the quantity of the essays submitted for any given year.
When given a limitation of one hundred words, for example, a student would have four times the probability of using a particular word than if he or she would be restricted to twenty-five words. Also, even if one is comparing an equal word limitation for any yearly comparison, a particular word may have be used 50% more often simply because 50% more essays were submitted that year. Because of the fore mentioned factors, it may be more meaningful to analyze a word or phrase in the context of the “total quantity of words” rather than “total quantity of essays.”
Finally, and most important, it must be clear that the database of essays are the “winners chosen.” The thousands of essays that were not selected as winners were not entered into the database nor factored into the statistics. If every single essay submitted would be taken into consideration, the statistics would be slightly skewed. Also, since contest panel judges are instructed to select the most creative essays, they would indeed select essays with more intriguing word choices.
Because of the title and prompt of the contest, the most common words are; my, mom, deserves, a, diamond, and because. These words must be excluded from the findings. It is striking to me, however, how a particular word has been constantly used since 1993. Out of the possible 15,820 unique words, the word “love” (along with its derivatives) occurred 48,773 times from 93,047 authors!
It is sometimes important to combine associated words when analyzing the data. For example, love is used 30,760 times. When derivative or closely related words are added such as: loves, lovely, lovingful, loved, lovesome, loving, lovingness, loveness, lovable and loveable, the total frequency jumps to 48,773. Out of the 15,820 unique words, this makes the word “love” or its derivative, the eleventh most used word! (The misspelled “loveable” occurred 321 times. The correct spelling, “lovable, occurred 309 times!)
Therefore, it is fairly accurate to state that nearly 52% of the authors in the archive used the universal word love or a derivative when describing their relationship with their mothers.
Here are a few often used words (without any derivatives) and the frequency in which they occur.
Total Winning Essays: 93,047.
Word Frequency % of winners
Love 30,760. 33.1%
Always 15,348 16.5%
Heart 13,700 14.7%
Beautiful 12,098 13.0%
Eyes 11,395 12.2%