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First messages are hard.  Sending a decent first message is a bit like walking up to stranger at a party and starting a conversation, except you don’t have any of the normal body language cues to go off of or the shared experience of the party to bond over (“Whoa, did you see that drunk girl puking in the corner?  Crazy, huh?”).

But that doesn’t give us an excuse to suck at writing them.  Because, look: a lot of us suck at this.  Like, really suck.  There’s a reason that guys usually get next-to-zero replies on dating sites, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the ladies’ fault.

What Do We Do About It?

First of all, the basics.  Spend some time on your messages.  “What’s up?” is not going to cut it.  “How are you?” isn’t either (and please god tell me you aren’t writing it “how r u?”).  Most women get dozens of these messages a day; the real message that you’re sending here is “you’re not interesting enough to invest any time into, but I’m sending this on the off chance that you’re bored enough to talk with me.  Oh, and you’ll have to do all the work.”  Not very appealing, eh?

The opposite of this, of course, is to avoid spending too much time on your messages.  A wall of text will get ignored just as quickly as “wut’s up gurl” will.  It’s weird and creepy when a stranger comes up to you on the street and decides to tell you their entire life story without at least a little bit of encouragement; why would it be any different when you’re online?  You can talk about your favorite childhood jellybean flavors later when you’re out stargazing or something, but now is not the time.

Speaking of now is not the time, here’s a short list of things that should never go into a first message:

  • How attractive they are
  • How attractive you are
  • Why their religion is wrong
  • Why your political views are right
  • Pet names like “baby,” “honey,” and “sweetie”
  • Sarcasm (it’s just too hard to read in text format unless you already know the person)
  • How much you hate your ex
  • How much you love your ex
  • Pet names (she isn’t your “baby girl” unless she’s your daughter)
  • Anything about sex (unless they’re explicitly looking just for “casual encounters”)
  • Pet names, for the love of god!

So what are we aiming for here, exactly?

A good first message starts a conversation.  It’s not enough to just pick a thing they like and show that you like it too—that’s not a conversation.  You need to invite them to expand on it, hopefully by demonstrating that you have something thought-provoking to offer them.  For instance:

“Oh, you like books?  I like books too!” is not going to create a conversation.

However, this might:

“So have you read Dan Brown?  His new book last year was really good, and I liked the twist ending; what did you think?”

(Quick note: if you don’t have anything interesting to say about anything on their profile, maybe you should ask yourself why you’re messaging them in the first place.)

The point is to sound casual.  A good first message should feel like the continuation of a comfortable conversation, like you’re picking right back up on something after an annoying stranger has finished butting in.  The point is also to sound confident, like you don’t care whether or not they reply (even though obviously you’d like it if they did).  Stay confident, stay casual, avoid pet names, and keep experimenting until you find the right length.

David McWilliams

David McWilliams is a traveler, writer, musician, sometimes-pilgrim, whiskey consumer, and enlightenment junkie who believes in carry-on luggage and the Oxford comma.  He grew up in the Midwestern United States and graduated from Michigan State University in 2010 before moving on to spend two years abroad.  Now he lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he freelances, dances tango, and writes about himself in the third person.

What Do You Think?

3 Comments | Join the discussion

  • Ibrahim gafar Feb 12, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Love is the mother of passion and the father to passion

  • Abdul Oct 23, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Give laugh to all but smile to one, Give cheeks to all but lips to one, Give love toall but Heart to one, Let everybody love you but you love one.

  • olayinka Oct 19, 2013 at 1:45 am

    like that


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