There’s a lot of internet advice about what first online dating messages should — and shouldn’t — say. Let’s get the worst of it over with now. DON’T listen to these people!
1. Explain that your jokes are jokes.
There is nothing worse than reading a joke that isn’t funny and then having the fact that it isn’t funny, but that somehow someone else thinks it is, explained to you. If your joke isn’t funny to that person, it’s either a) not funny at all, or b) not funny to him/her. You might as well find out right away if your senses of humor* line up.
*Bonus advice: Please don’t just write “I have a good sense of humor” and expect everyone to believe you. You should show it, or stop saying it.
2. Exaggerate (or invent) shared interests.
Really? In the middle of this city you’re walking around in, surrounded by thousands and millions of people walking, you fear you might be the only one who likes walking? It’s good to express enthusiasm for shared interests, but don’t make them up, and don’t be weird about it. You can only get so excited about both liking pizza.
3. Convert their interests into relationship metaphors.
Nope! Do not do this. Metaphors have no place in first online dating messages, and neither does reading too deeply into someone’s listed interests. Start simple, you maniac.
4. Help women think, which can be hard.
Chase, of girlschase.com (get it?), is really into the idea that guys’ messages to girls’ should assume brain-deadness on the part of the recipients: “You need to make it easy for women and help them think to avoid ending up with message abandonment issues,” he writes, suggesting that guys send girls messages that ask questions but also partially answer them, so it isn’t too hard or whatever.
Anyways, he’s probably pretty trustworthy, because look below, at the stock photo girl he posted on his page! What a babe! What kind of office environment is SHE in??
Though much of what you’ll find among internet advice on internet dating is bad, some of it is pretty spot-on and helpful. A lot of it is basic, but not SO basic that it hasn’t kept hundreds and thousands of online daters from violating these EXTREMELY BASIC principles anyway.
5. Ask a question.
This is so, so basic, but so important. Make your message one that someone — anyone — could conceivably want to answer. Writing an interesting question or two can’t guarantee a response, but NOTHING CAN. This will only help. But, a lot.
6. Prove you’ve read their profiles.
Chiara Atik at How About We has an important checkpoint for that message you’re about to send off: Does it PROVE you read the profile of the person you’re sending it to? No? Because then he or she isn’t going to respond (unless you are unreasonably hot, in which case, what’s your deal?). You might think your boilerplate message is a clever one, but anyone who’s had an online profile for more than two weeks can seriously smell the arrival of one in her inbox. Don’t waste your time and don’t waste anyone else’s — you have to put in a little work this way, but just do it.
7. Shut up about yourself.
If we wanted to read your profile, we’d have gone to it. An online dating message is not the same (thank GOD) as a job application. It’s presumptuous to list a bunch of unrequested information about yourself in your message, because doing so assumes that this person already thinks of you as a candidate. Instead, as with good tip #5, use the message to ask about him/her. Talking about yourself, at this point, should be limited, and related to the person you’re interested in.*
*Bonus advice: Never, for the love of god, describe yourself (whether in your profile, or in messages) as a “kick-ass” ANYTHING. Why is this so prominent!!!!!!
8. Speak like a human.
A few years back, the OKCupid blog posted a really helpful index of what kinds of messages get responses — and which ones don’t. Let me tell you, nobody on that site is reading it. And they really should! There’s lots of good stuff here — write using real words and real sentences; don’t compliment their looks up front; bring up specific interests. Again, you’d think these things would go without saying.