Five Tips for Writing that First Message to Someone on a Dating Site

When you find a profile on a dating site that makes you go, “Hmm, this one sounds promising,” it can be more stressful than expected. After all, you have one chance, your first message to this new person, to make a good impression. You want to write something that makes THEM go, “Hmmm, this one sounds promising.” You want that first message to draw them in, not send them screaming for the hills. So what constitutes a good first message to someone on a dating site?

OKCupid did the math. They looked at 500,000 first messages and checked out keywords, response rates and other valuable statistics. In the end, they came up with some rules that can help your first contact be the first of many more. There’s no guarantee that these rules will work every time, but they just might give you a leg up on the competition, at the least.

No matter how pretty she is, save it for after you've gotten to know her a bit.

No matter how pretty she is, save it for after you’ve gotten to know her a bit.

1. No physical compliments. You may think this is counter intuitive; what girl wouldn’t want to be told she’s beautiful? But the key here is that you’re trying to meet someone for the first time, and focusing on looks as a pick-up line can be a major turn-off. If the girl is pretty, she probably knows it, or at least made sure to put her most flattering picture on her profile. So messages that point out her attractiveness will probably come across as more creepy than complimentary. You can always tell her how attractive she is after you’ve gotten to know her a bit more. On the flipside, general, non-physical compliments scored way better in OKCupid’s analysis: go for words like “fascinating,” “cool,” or “awesome” (just don’t use them in the wrong context, like “you have an awesome rack”).

2. Atypical greetings score better than the bland ones. You may think that a standard “hi” is a good way to open a message, but it turns out that the usual “hi,” “hello” or “hey” scored pretty low. The opening lines that performed the best included “how’s it going,” “what’s up,” “howdy” and even “hola.” We’re not really sure why this is, but it’s best not to argue with science.

3. Don’t suck at spelling/grammar. Literacy, as it turns out, is important for a first impression, not only for job interviews but also for dates. Proper use of punctuation (especially apostrophes) can raise even ordinary words to high approvals, but failing at grammar drops otherwise-decent words into netspeak hell. The “words” (and I use that term loosely) that scored worst in OKCupid’s ratings included “ur,” “r,” “ya,” “u,” “cant,” “luv,” “realy” and “wat.” There were a few exceptions to the rule, such as expressions of laughter (“haha” and “lol” did okay in the stats), but by and large, dusting off those old English class skills helped users get far more responses than crappy or lazy writing.

4. Be an atheist. Or at least claim to be. Before anyone gets their panties in a wad about this, it’s not a personal preference thing by us or by OKCupid. We don’t care if you’re religious or not. The reality is, the stats don’t lie, and people who mentioned being atheist in their opening contacts scored higher than any other religious mention. A distant second was Christian, then Jewish, then Muslim. After that came mentions of Allah and Jesus (both barely a positive), while mention of “god” in general was a negative.

Tattoo, yes. Saying "u" instead of "you," NO.

Tattoo, yes. Saying “u” instead of “you,” NO.

5. Use specifics to stand out. Talking in vague, general terms about yourself is not going to win any points with a potential date. You want to be specific about your interests, and you also want to be specific about how you’ve noticed THEIR interests. For yourself, the following terms scored the highest in OKCupid’s findings: “band,” “metal,” “vegetarian,” “zombie,” “favorite movies,” “tattoo(s),” “physics,” “video games” and “grad school.” When talking about what the other person likes, the terms that got the best response (and showed that you were paying attention to their profile) were “you mention,” “good taste,” “noticed that,” “your name” and “curious what.” Be clear about what you like and also how interested you are in what they like, and you’ll have a much higher chance of response.

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