A Guide to Writing the First Message

Online Dating: The First MessageWhen it comes to online dating, the first message you send someone is pivotal. You might have the most awesome profile in the world, but if your message is so dull and uninspiring that the object of your interest isn’t driven to explore further, it becomes irrelevant.

Having said that, putting together an engaging first message really isn’t rocket science. These days I stick to a few simple (and occasionally counterintuitive) principles that have been working pretty well for me.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Consider the fact that the person you are messaging may be one or more of the following things:

  • Extremely busy
  • Inundated with messages
  • Not particularly engaged with the online dating scene

On all three counts, a short message works in your favor. Ask yourself – why does a long message benefit you? What does it offer the other person (other than a headache)? After all, your profile is for selling yourself, not your message. The message is just a gateway.

Be Polite and Literate

This really should go without saying, but in order to make a good impression, you should use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. You should also avoid all instances of “netspeak”.

If you don’t believe how powerful your literacy can be in provoking a response (or not), check out this fascinating post by the folks over at OkCupid. Their research reveals that the worst five words you can use in your first message are all slang or grammatically incorrect (e.g. “ur” and “cant”).

Keep it Light and Breezy

Nothing is more of a turn off than someone who seems boring. After all, no one wants to date a boring person, do they? So make sure that your message conveys a light and casual tone. Personally, I always tend to start my first messages with, “Hey! How’s it going?”

Prove That You’ve Read Their Profile

This is a key consideration – make it obvious that you’ve done more than simply taken one glance at their photo and said, “She’ll (or he’ll) do”. There is nothing more inspiring than a first message that reads:

Hey :-)

I mean, really? I’m often tempted just to reply back with, “Hey :-)”, just to see where they’re planning on going. But then I realize that I’ve got better things to do than communicate with people who can’t even be bothered to form a whole sentence.

So mention something that is in their profile – preferably something that interests you, or something that you have in common with them (if neither applies, you may want to double check why you are messaging them in the first place).

Ask a Question

This leads directly on from my last point. When mentioning something from their profile, it is a good idea to ask a related question. You don’t want to make them have to think of what they should say to you as a response – give them an easy route. So for example, your question might be:

I read in your profile that you like horror films – do you have a favorite?

Use Names

You want to make a human connection with someone, so if they reveal their name in their profile, use it! And whilst you’re at it, go ahead and remind them that you are a human also, by signing of your messages with your name.

First Message Examples

To give you a better idea of what I consider to be good first messages, here’s a selection of the last few I have sent out:

Hello Eve! How’s are you getting on with the Millennium books? I got through them pretty damn quickly. Have you seen the original films? Tom

Hey Steph! How’s it going? I went through the whole DIY stage when I moved into my house 6 years ago – I can’t stand to look at a paintbrush these days! Are you from Nottingham originally? Tom

Hello! How’s it going? As soon as I read that you’re not offended by a dirty joke and consider sarcasm the spice of life, I had to send you a message! I see that you’re a student – what are you studying? Tom

You may find the brevity of these messages surprising. But from the other person’s perspective, they are quick and easy to read, literate, light and breezy, mention something that interests them, and offer an easy response.

In other words, each message gives me a good chance of getting them to peek at my profile, at which point the message’s work is essentially done.

Creative Commons image courtesy of superstrikertwo

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