Online Dating: Sending the First Message

Sending the first message on an online dating site is intimidating—it's your first impression! If language is not at all your strong suit, you might want to visit Chemistry.comeHarmony, or, which do not allow you to send free-form messages. But if you want to show off your individuality (in a way that will land you dates, of course), check out,, or Lavalife. Here are some tips for that all-important first message: 

Be Brief

One sentence probably won't cut it, but pouring your heart and soul into a 3,000-character message to the object of your desire is overkill. Your recipient responds to a clear, concise message. Begin your message by introducing yourself, then make a case for why you should start communicating, and wrap it up with a thanks for reading. Try to encapsulate in a short paragraph the reasons you're interested.  

Be Polite

Don't let those reasons be the other person's looks. Lewd praise for his or her body ought to wait for a later date. And don't say anything mean about his or her profile; would you agree to date someone who criticized your hair, your dress, your views, or your favorite activities? (Answer: No.) So stick to the positives! Use spellcheck, and avoid Internet speak, like "ur" (instead of "your" or "you're") and "FAIL." Also, don't harass your recipient if you don't get a reply, or you'll seem desperate and/or psycho. Take it as a sign that you weren't meant to be, and move on.

Be Specific

Narrow your message to three to five of your recipient's profile points. Try to choose the ones that seem most significant. Does he refer to being a vegetarian who cares about animal rights? Has she decided to have 15 cats instead of children? This will take a bit of profile studying, but ten minutes of that plus two minutes of writing will get you more responses than the other way around. You don't want to be the chump who sends the same exact message to everybody.

Be Unique

Profile studying comes in handy here as well. If you know she likes zombies, you could open with "BRAINS!" If he's a Star Wars fan, try closing with "May the Force be with you." Online daters are bored with the standard lines, so get creative! Suggest the subjects of your future chats, e.g., "We could share the places we've hiked in Northern California." Individual quirks or sayings you have IRL might translate well, too. Here's an example of a short, sweet, targeted first message with a splash of quirk:












So take the plunge! Click around, find a few friendly looking faces, and get to messaging! 




Bottom line: Intuitive matching system based on complementary personality types, best for those seeking committed relationships

Bottom line: Large and active group of users, intelligent matching system based largely on similar tastes and interests

Bottom line: Quirky and straightforward approach to online dating; tons of personality quizzes help match users with local singles

Bottom line: Emphasis on guidance and deep connections, larger users base seeking committed relationships, some people are not accepted

Bottom line: Fun and playful; great social features; premium features somewhat available without a subscription

Bottom line: Designed for those seeking committed relationships, combines elements of matching and searching, personality test is less informative

Bottom line: Customizable experience, overwhelming & frustrating interface, best for people with flexible relationship goals and a lot of time on their hands

Bottom line: Emphasis on flirting and chatting, good for casual dating, slightly more explicit content, interface cluttered with ads

Bottom line: Very basic service with instant messaging and chat rooms, best for casual dating

Bottom line: Constant stream of speed dates, matchmaking "system" yields poor results, nonstop harassment to subscribe

Bottom line: Instant gratification — a simple "yes" or "no" to users' physical appearance is the only criteria needed to make a connection; app-based service.

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