We're just like you.  We connected through an online dating service--OK Cupid, to be exact.  Our first date was at a fun Seattle tapas-and-sangria bar.  We fell in love.  We are engaged to be married.  We know that you, too, can find love.  Let us help you.

Send the First Online Dating Message...and Get Results!

Send the First Online Dating Message...and Get Results!

You have undertaken the hard part of online dating--writing the profile (Yes, even The Dating Gurus admit that profile-writing is tough).  Now what? Messaging.

All online dating services provide a text-based messaging service which allows members to communicate.  It's similar to e-mail, except you never leave the dating service, don't need to create a separate account, and can remain anonymous.

Messaging is a crucial step, one where online daters often falter--due to simple, easily correctable reasons.

1.  Do NOT Send a "Boilerplate" Message

We see this all the time and it never works.  An online dater creates a stock message, a template of sorts, and re-uses it when contacting different members.  Sometimes the dater will get fancy, and change out parts of the boilerplate message to "customize" it for a different person.

Without fail, we have found that even the best boilerplate messages look fake.  We aren't proponents of throwing out a net widely to see what you catch, and most people can spot these type of messages intuitively.

Instead, focus on what you want. If you want a LTR, say so. If you want to hook up for a good time, say so. You won't waste your own time, or the time and energy of the person on the other end of the message. 

Solution:  Concentrate on fewer men or women and craft messages for him/her individually.

2.  Keep the Message Short

Just because you have narrowed the field doesn't mean you should write an entire book to each one.  Long messages fail in many ways.  They waste your time (when no one responds).  They tax the patience of the other person (even if they are interested).  But worst of all, they reek of desperation.

Solution:  Confine your initial message to 3-5 sentences.

3.  Be Provocative

The word "provocative" has lost its true meaning, somehow coming to mean being sexy or dressing in cheap black lingerie.

Provocative comes from the root "to provoke."  And provoke means to start something.  Isn't that what you're trying to do with this first message--start something?

More than that, you need to be provocative in a slightly disruptive sense.  Disrupt that other person's sense of the usual.

Solution:  It's OK to nudge the other person.  For instance, if the person mentions in the profile that "American Idiot" is Green Day's greatest album of all time, say that you beg to differ:  "21st Century Breakdown" is.  Or something.

4.  Be Original

No one wants a lover who is stamped out of a mold.  By sending messages that look like every other message received by that person, you blend into the background.  You look like all of the other nobodies out there.

Solution:  Look at that person's profile and try to anticipate the obvious stuff that what most people would comment on.  For example, if a guy prominently features pictures of himself at amateur bodybuilding events, and also includes a little detail in his profile about being a huge Billie Holiday fan, which one will you comment on?  Ignore the oiled slabs of meat and instead talk about Billie's forgotten recordings with Teddy Wilson in 1936.  Guaranteed:  you will be noticed.

Case in point: Our good friend sent a first message to a guy who was a professional writer. She titled her email message to him, "Orange Tea with Ginger" and wrote as an introduction, "Grabbed a few moments to write you this little note. Thank goodness for tea breaks on a chilly, Seattle-y day like this where I've been dashing in and out of the rain."

She went on with a short intro message, which caught his interest and stood out from the rest by its creative tone.

5.  Careful About Commenting on Pictures

It's natural to base your first message on something you saw in the person's pictures.  Pictures capture attention; that's why they are there.

But this can be dangerous territory.  For men especially, when you pick out physical details (hair, body, face) it can read a bit creepy and voyeur-esque to the recipient:  she may feel more like a piece of meat than a real person.

Solution:  Keep it clean, staying away from comments on boobs, butts, and other sensitive areas.  If you must comment on photos, obliquely reference that person's looks.

6.  Spelling and Grammar Count

Online dating messaging is not the same thing as texting your best friend.  Don't be surprised that recipients judge the sender based on the spelling and grammar in that message.  Bad spelling and grammar are the message equivalent of showing up at a date smelling bad:  correctable and possibly excusable, but not pretty at all.

Solution:  It's only a few sentences.  Take the time to correct spelling or grammar that you suspect is wrong.  Run it past a friend, or use a spelling- and grammar-checker.

7.  Be Safe!

The great value of these internal messaging services is that they let you remain private and safe.  It is not safe to give away your phone number, e-mail address, or other identifying information in the first few messages.


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Online Dating for Geeks: Review of

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