5 rules for writing a good first message on an online dating site

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Most people turn to me for help with their online dating profiles, but one question I keep being asked is what makes a good first message. I thought I’d write a post about it to give a clearer idea, though obviously these things are pretty individual. There’s generally no one size fits all solution when it comes to love. At the end of the day, if you’re not the other person’s cup of tea, you’re going to have a hard time getting through, even if you write like Shakespeare.

So here are 5 handy rules for writing your winning first message:

  1. Make it personal
  2. Both men and women like to feel special. Sending everyone you come across a generic message may save you time, but is likely to also get you fewer responses. By making a reference to the particular person you’re contacting – asking a question, saying you like something in their picture or a particular thing in their profile – you’re more likely to get their attention. Of course, there’s nothing that says you should write a completely new message each time. You can use a generic message as a base, as long as you add a little bit of uniqueness each time.

  3. Be polite
  4. Unless you’re dating on a sex site where anything and everything goes, keep it clean. You never know what the other person is looking for, so until you do, don’t make any assumptions. Coming on strong or being graphic or physical is more likely to put people off than anything. Beware of doing things like telling women you contacted them because you liked their chest, for example (yes, people actually do this). This is why sending messages when you’re drunk is never a good idea.

  5. Be casual
  6. You may think you’ve just found the man or woman of your dreams but coming on too strong too soon is likely to make anyone run away. To begin with, keep your message friendly but non-committal. Saying you liked someone’s profile (remember, be specific) and would like to get to know them is cool. Telling them you think you’re in love with them straight away is likely to make you look like a stalker or a scammer.

  7. Make it of a reasonable length
  8. And by reasonable I mostly mean not too long. While sending just a “hi” is usually not enough, writing volumes and volumes of text in your first message is more likely to get people to run away screaming than a boring, single word message. A single cheeky sentence, a single paragraph or, at most two or three is all that you need to make contact. If you want people to have easy access to information about you then put it in your profile. There’s no need to repeat any of that in your message as well. Simply tell the person to check you out if he or she is curious.

  9. Have a hook
  10. This one is somewhat related to making things personal, but involves thinking ahead and making life easier for the person you want to talk to. A hook is something to lure the other person into entering or continuing a conversation with you. Asking questions is usually a good hook – the person is invited to answer the question, so short of giving you the ultimate clue and ignoring you, they’re likely to say something. For your hook, you could comment on something you saw on someone’s profile and ask them a simple question about it (“Where did you live in China? I taught English in Shanghai for 6 months!”) or you could even ask a silly question without doing much else. This way, the other person already has a reason to contact you and an easy way of finding what to write. Using such hooks is also a good way to get a conversation going once it’s started, but be attentive to times when the other person loses interest – messages would get shorter, sometimes turning into single sentence responses to your questions and nothing else. A conversation involving shared interest will most likely have the other person sharing the same amount of information as you, as well as providing their own hooks.

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