First Contact: Do's and Don'ts for Replying to Personal Ads
You may have a great personal ad... and a wonderful smiling photo to go with your ad... but things can still fall apart if you are sending out an awkward first message in response to other people's ads. What can you do to make that first message work for you?
Write in advance. This lets you think about what you want to say about yourself and, more importantly, check your spelling and grammar. Have a friend read and react to your draft message.
Spellcheck. Yes, this counts. It shows that you are serious about finding dates and willing to pay attention to details. Some people are just natural bad spellers, but it can make you look less smart or less educated than you really are. Most websites do not offer spellchecking of profiles.
Personalize! We recommend writing a general template of a first message, but you have to personalize it for each person you contact. Mention something from their profile, ask a question that refers to something they wrote, or describe how you would be a good match for them. Mention what attracted your attention to their ad. No one wants to think they just received a form letter.
Write more than one line. "Liked your profile... want to chat?" This may be the most commonly-sent message on a dating website... and the most ignored. You need to say something else. Set yourself apart and say something interesting to get a reply.
Use humor. If someone with a great personal ad is receiving lots of replies... what will make yours stand out? A funny line might help. But if you have noticed that people do not respond well to your brand of humor... save your jokes for later.
Keep track of whom you've contacted. Don't write a series of letters to someone who has not responded... you'll look desperate or like a stalker.
Don't demand personal info immediately. Certainly not if you have failed to offer any details yourself. Go for a balance between talking about yourself and asking about them.
Don't open with your last failed relationship. Sure, you have a dating history. But talking about "game players, liars, and cheats" makes you sound a little bitter. Don't sound like you are obsessed with past partners... or that you think everyone will hurt you.
Don't open with sex: "Hi. You look sexy." Unless the person's ad specifically says they only want a casual sexual relationship, it can easily sound vulgar and rude. Women, in particular, typically delete those messages. When men get letters like that, they often expect a link to a porn site to follow. Even on a website that focuses on "adult activities," you need to do more than describe your body or fantasies.
Don't write a novel. Sending out your life story as a first contact is going to look odd. You need to write enough to sound like you have a life, not a book you'd like to publish.
Don't open with "I hate online dating." It is amazing how many people open a note with a line that condemns online dating sites and the people that use them. You are talking to someone that uses a dating website! Do you really want to immediately imply that they are desperate, dumb, or dangerous?
Don't ask for a phone number, address, or last name before you have even gotten a reply from someone. You may be mistaken for a serial killer or a telemarketer. Go slowly in asking for that sort of information; you don't want to scare off prospective dates.
© Dateable.com LLC 2002
About the author: Tracy Brant is a freelance writer and an editor at Dateable.com. She can be contacted at email@example.com
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