Online Dating Advice: Optimum Message Length

September 3rd, 2009 by Christian Rudder

Picture this online dating scenario:

  1. You see someone you like.
  2. You read their profile, and wow.
  3. You send them a long message.
  4. You hang tight and…
  5. …you never get a reply.

Sadly, this is a typical story. Even on a lively site like OkCupid, only about a third (32%) of first messages get any response.

Some people, however, get much better results.

In the next several posts here on OkTrends, we’ll be taking a closer look at messaging and finding some ways to improve your own message response rate. We will not be dispensing generic advice. No. We’ve done research, and we have actual numbers.

. . .

As we began to dig into OkCupid’s messaging data, the first thing we noticed was that most people’s contact attempts are way too lonnnng. Almost 16% of first messages are over 2000 characters (roughly 400 words), and the average is 743! At least in terms of using your time efficiently, your messages should be much shorter. Let’s start with this chart:

The y-axis is reply percentage; the x-axis is message length, in characters; and the two lines are as follows. Red is the ratio of messages that get any reply. Green is the ratio of messages that get a reply that in turn gets replied to by the original sender. The idea is that this is the ultimate goal of the first message: to start a conversation with someone.

Messages sent by guys are, overall, only about half as likely to get replies as similar messages from women. But when you consider we’re including dudes who send out messages such as:

Your hot

DAm I got inch for you

and

Your people need to get out of Israel

a baseline reply rate of 22% is looking pretty darn great. (All those were actual first messages, by the way.)

Now, our graph clearly shows that in raw terms, it helps guys to write longer messages. But when we factor in the actual time it takes to compose a given message, it becomes clear that in terms of time put in vs. likelihood of starting actually having a conversation, shorter is actually better. If we imagine that people type messages at about 200 characters per minute, we get the following table:

Of course, we shouldn’t forget that there’s a certain amount of overhead involved with contacting someone (scanning her profile for common interests, thinking of jokes to make, taking a deep breath, clicking around, and so on). If we include 5 minutes of forethought, we find that the actual ideal first message length is 200 characters, or 1 minute’s worth of typing for the average writer.

Yes, brevity is key. Something we learned building SparkNotes, in our pre-OkCupid days. If you’re the kind of person who spends a little more time reading a profile and thinking about your message, say, 10 minutes, then the optimal length goes up a few words (to 270 characters), but, still, short is better. Savor this advice, men, for there are not many things in your world that fit this paradigm.

. . .

For women, the most efficient message is even shorter.

The shortest messages get almost the best absolute response rate, and the reply rate actually goes down as messages approach extreme length. Apparently, after about 360 words (1800 characters), you start scaring people off. A message like that is the online equivalent of a face tattoo. Of your life story. Let’s generate our efficiency table for women:

Incredibly enough, the optimal first outreach from a woman to a man is just 50 characters long! I’m willing to speculate that this graph is telling us that a guy decides whether or not to reply to a woman’s message regardless of what the message actually says, and that the first message’s true function is simply to bring her profile to his attention.

My guess is that he looks at her picture and if she’s his type, he writes back. On the one hand, such a superficial reality is depressing. On the other, over 40% of female-to-male first messages do get replied to, so, as a woman, if you’re writing to a few people who fit your basic demographic the odds are very good you’ll get a response. Anyhow, all this implies that the average woman’s time is better spent looking for the right people to write to, rather than composing detailed messages.

To our bi and gay readers: we also ran the numbers on same-sex messaging, and though we don’t have nearly as much data for them, those charts are here, along with some discussion.

A quick note about privacy on OkCupid

Though this post talks in detail about the content of people’s messages on OkCupid, all messages have been thoroughly anonymized, with sender and recipient data stripped out. In addition, our sifting program looks at the content of messages only two or three words at a time, to track the success of certain phrases (like “what’s up” vs. “wats up”), then aggregates results by phrase. No human has read any actual user messages. The longer messages I give as examples in this post were actually forwarded to us by their annoyed/amused recipients.

This post’s line charts are smoothed with a bezier spline. Message length is rounded up to the nearest 50 (or we wouldn’t have significant data on some points.) So the first data point on the graph is messages of length 0–50, next is 51–100, and so on.

239 Responses to “Online Dating Advice: Optimum Message Length”

  1. Cedar says:

    You have a lot of queer people on your site–what about m4m w4w? How are they different?

  2. James says:

    HAHAHA, so, i have awesome zombie tattoos and piercings, so ALL the girls should be talking to me right? no really, i do.

  3. Mart1985 says:

    I’d like to add a brief sum-up to the post already made by DiveGuyMSN, and add a few numbers to it which he pointed out, but did not state.

    Of course I don’t know how it is for most men out there, but I for one only message people I am actually interested in, this being romantically, sexually, or just in a friendly fashion. The people I am interested in usually have profiles which contain some detailed information about their character and they have more than just one or two profile pictures. Add to this the fact that not all women on this site are inte…. inetl… intele… smart, and that this is a very important requirement for initial attraction, well, let’s just say there’s not that many.

    Now, on a good day, when I have nothing better to do and I spend about two hours on OkCupid browsing through profiles, looking for people who share my interests and / or to whom I am physically very attracted, I find, maybe, two or three people I feel are worth a message. Not because I somehow feel the remaining fifty are inferior, but just because I think the odds of a *mutual* attraction are very slim at best. If someone states that they are looking for a bodybuilder that listens to RnB with whom they can go on a skiing trip… well… no point in messaging.

    So, on a good day I find two or three people I would like to message. If I message them with a 100 character message each I would have a 15.6% chance per contacted to get a response. If i were to send each of these people a 3000 character message I would have a 23.6% chance per contacted to get a response.

    Another thing I’d like to take into account is the time I have already spent to find these people in the first place. After two hours of looking I’d like the highest possible chance for a reply once I have actually messaged.

    Yes. If I were to message fifty people per day I would probably get more responses with short messages, but seeing as there is just no way I find that many people in a week’s time the numbers point towards a higher amount of responses if I were to actually put some effort into a message. Let’s face it, if I were to message fifty people per day I’d run out of people.

  4. Speaker2Machine says:

    Some good preliminary results. A couple of things you may want to look at, from the point of view of someone who’s actually in the text-mining biz, or at least has been in the past:

    A really interesting breakdown would be to look at the overlap in (important) words (or two-word phrases) between a sender’s message and the profile of the person they’re writing to. Especially interesting would be to see how these bin out in terms of which headings the overlap of successful messages fall under (how many words under “My Self-Summary” vs “Books, TV, Music”).

    Given that kind of data, you could see whether certain headings need reworked or if giving people examples or more guided editing of what to write improved people’s response rates.

    Out of idle curiosity, a guy by the name of Shlomo Argamon a few years ago came out with an algorithm to determine whether a writer is male or female. I’d be interested to see how it breaks down and whether people who score on the more extreme sides of male/female-ness in writing get more responses from their messages or fewer.

    My two cents…

    — J.

  5. AverageJez says:

    I’ve always had trouble on what to say for the first message, although here lately I’ve still kept up on long messages because it makes it known that I’m not another stereotypical guy wanting a quick lay, or a fast relationship.

    You’d also have to put into effect what motive they have vs how long their message is. I’m sure you’ll find somebody who’s wanting an intimate partner will have considerably shorter messages than somebody who is wanting a steady relationship simply because there isn’t much information that has to be exchanged. “Hi, wanna meet x and have fun?” Whereas if you’re wanting to get to know the person on a deeper level, the above quote just won’t do it.

    The profile is nice, but the 500 word minimum for another 5% profile completion is a bit much. I know it’s just “to get out there” and not a requirement, but some people might misconstrue that as an incomplete or not posted profile. There are dating sites that make you complete the profile entirely before even listing it on their searches.

    I like the site, but just like any other dating site, there’s that possibility of finding the wrong person who will willingly try to hurt rather than love. That’s another negative to getting replies from messages.
    How can somebody judge you accordingly if you show yourself as too good to be true, an illiterate/ignorant person, or a wannabe gangster? There is no middle ground because humans like to generalize and stereotype before giving that person a chance.

    So it’s not just the sender, but the receiver and how they see the message. How trusting they are, gullible, judgmental, etc.

    I’ll shut up before I get too carried away. Good article, but a one-sided study nonetheless.
    -Jez

  6. silentthriller says:

    So what you’re saying is, send short vague messages? That sounds annoying!

  7. Nerdanel74 says:

    I must admit, if someone used the words “tattoo”, “zombie”, and “piercing” in an opening message, I would think I’d died and gone to wherever. Then I would reply with a 3000 word message which would directly address the subjects brought up in the initial message.

    On the other hand, I also reply to the stupid “wat up?!!?1!” messages… I lecture them. I had one message from a guy that basically opened with “Hey, beautiful, how about you to ride my man pole?” (or words to that effect, I’m being considerably cleaner because this is a blog). I pointed out that if he’d been in a bar asking the same words straight up, he would be slapped. Hard. That calling me ANY pet name in the first message was unacceptable. And that I was specifically looking for people who had a working brain.
    Hopefully I’m making it easier on other women… one idiot at a time.

  8. Ashley says:

    Interesting. The short messages I get are usually unsatisfactory. If they aren’t interesting enough, I don’t bother responding. If someone writes a lot, the odds are higher they actually mentioned something of interest to me. I’m not sure how I feel about these findings.

  9. lookin4Aloha says:

    “but, still, short is better. Savor this advice, men, for there are not many things in your world that fit this paradigm.”

    Good one. Man hater.

  10. brasspistol says:

    My thing is I never know what to say in an opening message, so shorter is fine with me but, I do wonder what would I say in a longer message, to someone I’ve never spoke to before…

    Also just a little thought about responding and not responding : I would just prefer the courtesy of “sorry, not interested.” than nothing at all. It makes me feel less like a whack-o.

  11. josueverde says:

    I was just commenting the other day on the number of women’s profiles that mentioned zombies. Now, it pops up again. Somebody call Max Brooks. We might have some kind of new infestation.

    The hardest part about keeping a first message short is making an initial connection. I feel like, the more concepts I put in a first message, the more likely I am to strike a chord and get a response. But I guess the ladies, on average, don’t like wading through all that text.

    So, from now on, one-line zingers it is!

  12. Geek Magi says:

    I now have brewed the perfect spam e-mail to send all the ladies! it is even exactly 200 characters.

    “SUBJECT: Sorry, I’m a pretty Awkward guy Haha.

    I want to say hi so I’m using the words that get the most responses from women on OKC. I”m not in a Band and I don’t have Piercings. I like Literature & Tattoo.”

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  14. Quivirian says:

    200 characters per minute is supposed to be average? Boy, am I behind the curve. If I tried to go anywhere near that fast I’d spend three times as long fixing typos. (Granted, those don’t seem to bother a fair number of people these days.) I also tend to spend far more time composing than typing.

    Of course, I rarely make first approaches anyway. It’s that pathological shyness thing. When I do work up the nerve, I want to give that message the best individual chance it has regardless of how long it takes; by your own figures, that means producing something longer.

    I’m further wondering to what extent your figures are skewed by FOAD responses to short, obnoxious messages. Character and keyword count strike me as fairly useless, on the whole. Statistics on how the content of messages affects the chance of a response would be more helpful, but of course you can’t get those without actually reading people’s mail to find that content. All in all, that makes this statistical exercise a pointless diversion, briefly amusing but signifying nothing.

  15. Rogue367 says:

    Well, if anyone puts “income 100 000-150 000$” in their profile, they’ll get lots of mails, answers and IM. Regardless of if it’s true or not. But do I want to attract women who are attracted to men with money ? (regardless, again of the fact I’d be wealthy or not).

    So, why would anyone want to attract 200 shallow persons, when they be actually looking for ONE deep person ? It’s already a hassle to deal with ten new contacts a week, and lots of time is waisted in unique chat, ending with “It was nice to chat with you…”, and nothing after that.

    Soooo, these raw datas doesn’t make much for me. I don’t believe quatity will produce quality: who can seriously chat and mail several people at a time ?

  16. Jeff says:

    I would love to see these statistics further broken down by match percentages.

    Given a reasonable number of questions answered, I’ve been very impressed with how accurate the match percentages appear to be on OKC.

  17. Artie says:

    I find that longer messages of at least 200 words get a response. But the percentage even for women who “reply often” seems low. Maybe it’s me, my pictures, profile or some combination there of. Either way. Eh, I don’t think there’s a magic formula to this thing. I do know that women of a certain age range (the one I’m in) seem to like Zombies, Tattoos, Piercings, Bands. Smart women seem to like literature. I will be trying this experiment just for fun, and something else to do. :)

  18. Cricket says:

    I’m all over the road with this. I can see how long messages can worry some people; but then I think that a message that’s a good read is a good message regardless of length. It a person demands that it be short, then they probably aren’t really looking to converse. There’s much to be said for being succinct; but, it bothers me that the general attention span of humanity is getting shorter. It’s no wonder that so many people seems to feel so compartmentalized and disconnected–even when surround by people they love (a la family). I say that if you don’t give much, you wont get much much. It’s a huge peeve of mine when you write a letter to someone and they give you 2 lines back. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone like that? Imagine if everyone only gave you one word answers. How do you get to know anyone like that? Why be on the site if you don’t want to communicate. Just go to hotornot.com and save yourself the chore of writing a profile.

  19. ablondecouple says:

    Jeff is onto something above.

    How about breaking down messages that start long conversations and lead to mutual favoriting vs. match % and # of questions in common?

    You would have to look at recent data, since back in January OKC took the ill-advised step of changing match percentage calculations. I miss the old days when you could look at how close Match + Enemy was to 100% and know how many questions someone had answered.

  20. ThatZetaGuy says:

    I only have to assume that I’ve been one of those “rambling first contact”ers. Now, from an outsider’s perspective (after viewing someone that was very concise and scientific about it……..[you]) I can see how what I did could be a problem. I got an immediate reply from a beautiful and interesting girl after I sent a greeting like “Hey, how’s it going. I see you like Freddy Mercury. Queen was definitely awesome. I’d love to chat with you if you’re interested. Give me a shout.” I tossed a couple little jokes in there as well. I had a response in 5 hours. She expressed interest (even with a few “haha”s in her email) in talking to me, but wanted more to talk about, and asked for a longer message. I sent her a message of 3 short (5 sentence) paragraphs…. articulate…non-rambly (from my POV)…educated… and even offered some ideas (don’t get cheeky). No reply. I emailed a few days later saying something like “I hope I gave you enough questions in that last one :P” No reply. A couple days later I emailed “Just curious, what exactly ‘turned you off’ when I sent the longer email? I haven’t had much success with this and I was wondering if maybe you could tell me first hand.” No reply.

    All of that aside, I guess she just didn’t care for me once I actually started talking, and I never did find out what it was that caused that. But, my point was that a short, to-the-point, lighthearted email expressing a passing interest in something in her profile and complimenting her interest will get a response. But writing an essay regarding the scientific principles behind quasars and their effect on surrounding bodies…. just because they say they have an interest in space, is not.

    And, I do have to agree with Mart. You are inclined to be articulate and say something intelligent, and unfortunately for the human race, the ammount of intelligent people in the world is very slim, and the ammount that would decide to come to this community is even slimmer. So you have to take it easy, write something smart, be witty (if it comes naturally, if it doesn’t then DON’T), and be quick and to the point.

    I am going to apply this from now on, and I plan to have my next message say something like “Sorry if this is awkward, haha. You have a pretty zombie tattoo right next to your piercing. You like awesome bands, and have a good interest in literature. I love you. Talk to me please.”

  21. dichotomousmind says:

    To add to some things other people have said – this post makes two assumptions that I don’t think are valid.

    First, that people I message are interchangeable. The idea that I should send dozens of messages off implies that, first, I have dozens of people I’m interested in, and that, second, none of them are worth taking the time to tailor my approach to what I know about them from their profile. I’m not trying to get people to sign up for a credit card. The idea is not to take a shotgun approach and figure I’ll hit something. The idea is to send off a few messages and get responses on EACH ONE, because I think all of those people are worth getting to know.

    Second, that I have enough people to do this with – I’m in DC, and it’s a pretty big city, but if I spend one hour a day (10 messages, by your figuring) writing to people, within a few weeks I’d either have to be willing to either drive halfway across Virginia or be contacting people with <50% match scores.

    I really love that you guys are doing this blog, and keep it up. I think the most useful bit of information in this entry, though, is the near-total plateau in response rates after 1000 characters (which, I would note, this message is already over). Looking at it in terms of absolute effort instead of relative effort, that's much more useful than knowing that I can shoot off ten meaningless spam messages an hour to maximize my response rate.

  22. ilovetubesocks says:

    I wish more guys read this just so they could see – with a graph!! – how off-putting bad spelling is. (And I’m glad to know it’s not just me that feels that way.)

  23. James says:

    Fascinating stuff, thank you for the time and effort that went into this report. Tell a girl she’s awesome and she’s yours, lol.

    I was just curious; above you say that shorter messages work better, so why do I keep getting these little automated things back from OkCupid when I send IMs, saying “Try sending longer messages for more success”…?

  24. Matt says:

    I like this study.

    My only advice to men is: lighten the hell up! Stop being so serious in your profiles and your emails! This isn’t life or death–we’re all here to have a good time, some are just less patient than others. Some people think it’s some kind of extreme wrestling match where you have to wear out the competitor and then submit her. It’s more like fishing: cast the lure, chill out, have a beer, let yourself get distracted until something tugs on the line, and throw it back if it’s not the right one. No big deal.

  25. Matt says:

    @ilovetubesocks

    I don’t want any men to understand bad spelling is off-putting! Let them fail! Then people like me will stick out!

    In fact, I take back my previous advice: MEN OUT THERE: Women like aggressive, sexual, direct, unambiguous and explicit mentions of your genitalia, and make sure you’re doing your best gang sign with kissy lips in your pic! Don’t forget the shirtless pic in the bathroom mirror!

  26. Eliza says:

    Personally, I think messages that are too short show that the person sending them probably isn’t really that interested in YOU so much as they are interested in somebody, as in ANYbody. But too long a message, and it starts to get a little creepy, like they have nothing better to do with their time then ramble on to a stranger they’ve never talked to. So I think there is a good happy medium.

  27. LHLD says:

    personally, i’ll respond to a “hey what’s up” hoping there will be more info. if there’s no more than a few single-word responses (or none at all), obviously i’m not worth your time so you’re not worth mine.
    i like to pick things out of others’ profiles to discuss – that is, if they’ve got more than one-line responses in their profiles. and something more than “i’m looking for the love of my life, please fall into my lap” (paraphrased, of course, but awkwardly appropriate for multiple types of profiles). really, there’s more to life than pairing up and preparing to die.
    off my soapbox there. on the whole, i’m a nerd and i like the data and statistics and would like to see where else you’ll go with this.

    (and thatzetaguy, you had me hooked… till you spelled “amount” wrong. twice.)

  28. Paul says:

    No offense to Eliza, but her answer demonstrates part of why it is so hard for reasonable men to connect and potentially attract a woman online.

    Of course we’re interested in YOU, but what does anyone really know about you by your profile initially… really?

    So, in that sense we ARE interested in anyone (that we are attracted to) who will respond so we can find out if there is any kind of chemistry.

    For god’s sakes, getting back to someone (except to somebody who’s obviously unreasonable) doesn’t bind or commit you to that person. So many women I know who are looking for a “good” catch say there aren’t any out there. And men say the same… What gives?? I know many reasonable men AND women and nobody is hooking up!

    It seems to me that so many people are so overly picky and judgmental before anything even gets started. This is worse than junior high!!

    How about conversing and giving it a chance for an email or two and if there is no chemistry, politely say so. It’s no big deal. Any reasonable guy, me included, will move on to someone (not JUST anyone) else.

  29. Paul says:

    whoops! correction:

    For god’s sakes, get back to someone (except to somebody who’s obviously unreasonable) – it doesn’t bind or commit you to that person.

  30. TheNels says:

    Is it just me or isn’t the goal of the first letter to simply get the ball rolling. It should be a hello, show a genuine interest and try to get them interested in you. sounds easy, but it really isn’t. I would say that anything less than 5 sentences is probably too short and anything more than 10 is probably too long. If they want to know more all they should have to do is ask.

    It would also be helpful to know how many people actually read a persons mail. you can never be sure that they don’t simply delete something because they weren’t interested in the first place. Those cases you could be Shakespeare and not get a reply.

    I am in agreement that a Thanks but no thanks should be a part of common courtesy, but that also seems to be generally a dying sentiment.

  31. Chris says:

    Why not run this same analysis but compare the height that men list in their profile to their response rate?

    You will find a MUCH stronger correlation between response rate and a man’s HEIGHT than his message length! Of course, I suppose it’s harder to suggest that men grow taller than it is to suggest they write shorter messages!

    You have the nerve to put men down by saying:

    “My guess is that he looks at her picture and if she’s his type, he writes back. On the one hand, such a superficial reality is depressing.”

    …but you failed to analyze if women respond more readily to tall men, which we all know is the case.

    If you’re going to make broad generalizations when completing statistical analysis which make men look like jerks, you need to be FAIR and show how women judge men based on superficial factors like height as much as men judge women on their looks.

  32. Sarah says:

    First I’d like to say I’ve been a member on OKC a long time, before I started seriously dating in general, and I’m currently dating someone I met on the site successfully. I consider myself very lucky. I don’t think this is the best way to meet someone, but I am open about the fact that this was my chosen method and it happened to work. Somehow. :P

    Guys that say they’d appreciate any sort of reply including the “Thanks, but no thanks”, also seem to want to reply AGAIN to that message and ask “WHY?”. I’m not necessarily interested in being part of your science experiment approach to dating and bettering yourself as a person, not every single time anyway. Then there are the guys who don’t spell correctly or are crass in their first messages, and you reply politely with the “Thanks, but no thanks”, and they get offended, and sometimes rude/offensive, because you’ve wounded their gangster pride. I’m stereotyping but this is based on my own experience with these users.

    On the other hand, I’m one of those people that would like to get any sort of reply to my messages, and it sucks when you don’t hear anything from anyone. I have been lucky enough to receive this “Thanks, but no thanks” reply in the past, and it kind of stings. It’s appreciated, but it stings all the same, every time. Being on the other side and having to write that knowing it might sting a little for someone else, makes it hard to bother writing that. I reply to every message, even the insane ones, but I try not to be so blunt, which can get me into trouble later on, (“leading someone on” etc.) but at least the guy can’t say he doesn’t get any replies to his messages, even if I might abruptly stop replying when I consider the current conversation to be over, without an interest in starting another one.

    In general, my observation has been that people on this site don’t look at the big picture, not as much as they say they do. These are the really active users I’m talking about who log in frequently, check messages and browse profiles in order to send out messages, and really want to meet lots of people. I applaud this, and yet when it’s not going as you might’ve hoped, which seems to be the trend amongst…everyone…you gotta take a step back once in a while and think about what you’re goal is. If it happens to be “End up married/in a serious and loving relationship”, this isn’t the environment to really cultivate that sort of relationship, I don’t believe people can function that way, really take a person the way they’ve projected themselves on a profile, and yet not be judgmental and also be civilized and polite, while also trying to find that “spark”. It’s a lot to ask for.

    To sum up: GO OUTSIDE, and DO SOMETHING. Meet the actual person and not their profile!

  33. Emily says:

    I really like the bar graph of words relating to replies. I get a lot of messages from guys who make no attempt to utilize what they’ve learned in high school.

    I actually made a video about it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP2ekRdgkjw

  34. ED says:

    “Now, our graph clearly shows that in raw terms, it helps guys to write longer messages. But when we factor in the actual time it takes to type a given message, it becomes clear that in terms of time put in vs. likelihood of starting actually having a conversation, ”

    Typical example of “I don’t like the conclusion here, so I’ll be ‘clever’ by trying to look for another way to play with the numbers until I can ‘derive’ the answer I want”

    Clearly the data shows longer messages increase the rate, but you just couldn’t leave it at that. Excuse me, but I’m not a machine trying to maximize the number of replies I get per hours I put in. I’d rather gets 3 replies per month that are high quality than 300 that are poor matches. I’d rather have no contact than poor contact, in fact.

    Chris makes a well articulated point I’ll just copy/paste below.

    =start

    You have the nerve to put men down by saying:

    “My guess is that he looks at her picture and if she’s his type, he writes back. On the one hand, such a superficial reality is depressing.”

    …but you failed to analyze if women respond more readily to tall men, which we all know is the case.

    If you’re going to make broad generalizations when completing statistical analysis which make men look like jerks, you need to be FAIR and show how women judge men based on superficial factors like height as much as men judge women on their looks.

    =end

    More proof that intelligence cannot substitute for wisdom and ope-mindedness, to see so much bias, now on two fronts.

  35. Cuddlef15H says:

    I don’t care what people say. If a message is short and poorly written, I will get SO annoyed. I want a full message with something to talk about and respond to–that’s why I like writing letters…

    I just think that, mostly, a large percentage of people nowadays have SUPER short attention spans. It’s fine to admit it, but I just don’t like short, idiotic messages that have no point. I’m odd.

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  37. rfc5561 says:

    On the blog:
    I disagree strongly w/ the blog and it’s position. It’s not about quantity it’s about quality. If your only goal is getting a date/hookup every week… then it’s great. If your goal is to meet people you find interesting from their profiles then it’s same as always.

    On replies in general:
    The reason I expect a reply is because of simple courtesy. You have put a profile up because you’re INVITING gentleman to contact you. (same as I have a profile up because I’m inviting interesting ladies to contact me). You don’t want guys to spam you w/ one sentence (or less). You want them to take the time and effort to actually read your profile and write accordingly. Show them a little appreciation and human decency and give them a paragraph reply (it only takes a minute or two).

    If someone walked up to you in person, was very polite, and acted like a perfect gentleman. Would you outright ignore him, or give him a polite rebuff? Generally, a polite rebuff followed by more severe measures if he doesn’t take the hint. Online for some reason, just ignoring people is considered normal.

    If I’m treated constantly like a faceless avatar rather than as a suitor (welcome or unwelcome). Guess what, I stop acting like a gentleman out of frustration (well I don’t, but most guys do). Guys start doing what you hate, because it is ‘the most effective use of time” as the blog states.

    In short, actions (and reactions) have consequences. If you don’t want gentleman to leave, or start acting boorishly. Then don’t start acting boorishly yourself. Put another way, by not acting like a lady, you’re discouraging the gentleman from sticking around (or acting like gentleman in the future).

    The most basic rule of courtesy is this, treat others as you yourself wish to be treated.

    On to Sarah,
    As to your other comment, I’ve only ever asked someone ‘why’ when I’ve had substantial interaction with them. (traded a long string of messages, met in person, etc.) My reaction to a polite ‘thanks but no thanks message’ is at least she’s a quality person, too bad, look for another. She’s at least taken the time to acknowledge my interest and let me down gently. She treated me as a polite gentleman in the street rather than a faceless avatar. I’m more likely to stick around the site, and raise the ratio of gentleman/losers.

    Yes, any rejection stings a little. But there’s a big difference between a let down and a slap in the face.

  38. CarefulSnail says:

    I think I’m guilty of saying too much in my initial message and thereby scaring guys away with my intelligence and my emotional depth. Of course, it could be that my photos aren’t sexy enough and my profile fails to quite capture that magical zing that would make me irresistible from the start.

    Either way, there certainly are many variables at play here. This blog provides an interesting dialogue on the important and often troublesome initial message. Thanks, OKC!

    Oh, while I’m here, let me say that I prefer the sting of “Thanks but no thanks” to no reply at all. I see each encounter as an opportunity to learn something about myself and this crazy dating process. Even a negative response teaches me something, no response just gives me a vague rejected feeling.

  39. Max says:

    I would like to see an analysis of response rates based on profile settings like:
    -Their claimed income include “rather not say” (howabout “self employed so it varies”? )
    -and their claimed religion, interest or lack in children etc.

    On other subtopics to OKC data-mining, I’m considering moving to another country and I’d like to see ways to find clusters of people similar to myself. I’ve been banging my head against the conservatives of the US Deep South and I’d like to try living in a civilization for awhile …

    If yáll are interested in the conversation on moving out of the US because we can’t even seem to be able to create the medical equivalent of a simple fire department, check out:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=126257711746&ref=nf

  40. Andrew says:

    I spend a lot of time going through the profiles before I send a message. I try to draw on at least one thing we have in common when I write the message, or something I found interesting I would like to know more about. My first messages haven’t been long, but they are far from one liners… probably between 3 and 6 sentences.

    I have had a generally good response rate from the people I have been interested in. Following messages get longer as you see if there is anything there. My belief in success on here is this though. See if you have the mutual interest, and ask them out within a week or 7 messages, which ever comes last. If you don’t act before you run out of things to email back and fourth about all is lost because you won’t know what to say when you finally meet. if you meet before that point and still have interest, you can much more easily keep things to talk about fresh.

    Anyhow, I feel I have found an amazing person on here. Currently we couldn’t be happier together, but with anything, only time will tell.

  41. Otscay says:

    Hmm interesting. I do not however wonder if it takes into account a key factor such as desire or desperation if you will, ya know is the person sending a message all about getting replies or not settling & just being genuine trying to score a connection with those in which there is true spark in the exchange rather than just some commonalities.

  42. tx2md says:

    The traces for %reply and %conversation follow each other, independent of message length, which is true for both women and men who initiate one. Therefore, message length does not affect your chances of stretching a reply into multiple mails (conversation).

    And, the %conversation does not vary drastically across message length either. Initiating men may converse with one in four or five women, initiating women with about one in three men. I’ll leave the gender specific psychology to the experts, but want to comment further.

    We humans are quite different in our needs, wants, and turn-ons. All I can recommend is, that you are kind to each other, write to your heart’s content, and be truthful to yourself and your profile. I know, all y’all are. That is the only thing you have control over, a bit of the Golden Rule here.

    You cannot make someone need you or want you. But courtesy and good intent go a long way – at least for your conscience. If your message falls on deaf ears, you did not cause anyone to be silent. In contrast, you invited them kindly. So hang in there and don’t take it personally. No more than five attempts later, on average, you will find that kind person.

  43. OminousSilence says:

    You know… it seems like everyone is taking this stuff a little too seriously. Dating should be fun, if it’s not what’s really the point? Does anyone want to end up with someone that they don’t have a good time with? Much more important than the length of the message is the content. Probably part (if not all) of the reason that longer messages do not tend to get replies is that they forget to add the fun (or don’t put in enough to keep the person’s attention).

    I’ve had pretty good success on this site (I’ve gotten responses from most if not all the women I’ve seriously (as in not just to amuse myself or ask 1 question out of curiosity) contacted). Some things I’ve picked up from my end are

    – Don’t get hung up on the superficial criteria she lists on her site. If she says she wants “a bodybuilder that listens to R&B with whom they can go on a skiing trip” and that’s not you but she seems interesting to you; message her anyways (and shorter messages are definitely the way to go here you invest much less of your time and energy that way). I don’t meet several to many of the criteria most of the women I message list and it really hasn’t affected the response rate.

    -Have fun with your message. If you’re not having fun writing your message, she probably won’t have fun reading it. It doesn’t matter if writing isn’t or never was fun for you, if the message isn’t fun you’re probably not going to get a reply. (A little trick with this is look for something in her profile you can tease her about (TEASE not criticize), and then have fun with it).

    -Give her something to respond to. No one has the comeback to every possible joke, so give her a question (or few) to choose to respond to should she not have a response to how you chose to tease her. And do keep the questions light; asking whether or not she wants kids and how many in the first message is just… CREEPY!

    -Challenge her. This one may be more for the type of women I’m attracted to, but most people feel almost compelled to respond to a challenge, even if it was presented by someone they weren’t originally interested in knowing. So challenge her to prove she has something you like in a woman (again keep it pretty light, it is not ok to challenge her to prove how good she is in bed, that she’s fertile, etc.)

    Anyways, good luck. Hope this helps some of you.

  44. Elly says:

    I have to agree with much of what Sarah said. In fact, it almost seems like most people are saying something to the contrary of what these findings state.

    I too am completely turned off by someone who doesn’t use capitalization or punctuation and abuses brevity. I am a terrible speller so I try and use spell check. The Firefox browser has spell checks built in so that helps a great deal. It really does say to me that they don’t take the time to think things through (like grammar, and what I’ve said) and they don’t read my profile. Translation? They don’t listen. The world is full of people that wait their turn to speak, not listen. Why in the hell would I want a long-term relationship or a friendship with someone like that?

    I do try to message everyone that sends me a message, only because I want to acknowledge them but for those that reference my anatomy or their want to get to know me in the carnal sense, I spare them no kind words. I am direct and to the point: NOT INTERESTED.

    I talk a lot, and I write like I talk, so I find myself sending long messages. I figure that I am pretty open and honest in my profile and this is how I write, so you either take me for that or not. For me, no need to write me back saying you aren’t interested (and if you do, I’m not offended, I appreciate honesty). Your silence is enough of an answer and to that I say ‘next’. Men are like buses (and I suppose this could be applied to any romantic interest, regardless of their sex). There really is always another one coming.

    To add to this, as my co-worker has said, it’s all a numbers game. The more you meet, the more likely you are to meet someone that works for you.

  45. Jack says:

    Thanks, i totally just sent a message reading
    “awesome
    sorry
    haha
    pretty
    band
    zombie
    tattoo
    awkward
    literature
    piercings”
    what are my chances?

  46. Mick says:

    All of you guys had great things to say, so hopefully I can put a few cents in too. I was on OKCupid from November 2008 until about April of 2009, Which in March I had met a really gorgeous, intelligent girl who is the assistant editor of one of the top magazines in my city. We dated for a few months had a pretty intense and fun relationship and still remain friends…I am now seeing someone else that I feel matches me a lot better. The thing is its a website. I have learned that women have a more realistic view as to the nature of being on here. Yes, its a bit contradictory (why be on a dating website if you’re not serious about dating…or just here for the ‘tests’..I used to see that a lot on girls profiles) but women aren’t willing to just pick anyone and most of the fellas aren’t secure enough to understand that.

    I tried this fairly recently. I did something called ‘recon profile’. Basically I took a set of random profiles of girls from myspace or whatever (pics from one girl, and profile shit from another blah blah) JUST to see what other guys say to girls…let me tell you, WE GUYS NEED TO GET IT TOGETHER! I swear, now I understand why girls don’t reply to your messages…some of you guys really are messed up. Even Katie, the girl I had been dating from okcupid showed me some of her messages, while we were eating chinese one evening together…seriously appalling shit.

    My advice, definitely keep it short in the first message..matter of fact you’ll get a healthy amount of responses each day just from one sentence. BUT be careful, too short for too long and you’ll lose her. You have a very short window with women to spark the attraction because she has more options than you do. Also, regardless if a girl says she interested in space or whatever, it doesn’t mean shes interested in your wannabe intellectual ramblings. It was honest, general, straight-forward, non intrusive, non offensive etc. Trust me one to two sentence is it. Girls don’t want your life story up front, and are creeped out by it, most of them anyways. The thing about women is they read into EVERYTHING, so if you don’t want to set yourself up for heartbreak, don’t go laying all your cards out there and instead be playful if she responds back, give her a little challenge, don’t message her right away when you sign on…you need to communicate that you are not a wimp and give her a reason to think you are special. I’ve realized, women/girls aren’t so much into assholes..but they are attracted to their TRAITS (self reliant, self motivated, not a push-over, etc.)

    So nice guys my advice to you…stop supplicating and kissing ass thinking you can stranglehold her into liking you, it wont work. Instead, focus on yourself, and love yourself and do the things you love, she will noticed that you are confident, COMPETENT, and all the other things that make a great man.

    Again, keep those messages brief as possible and fairly general and maybe a little playful; NOT OFFENSIVE and nerdy. If done correctly, and honestly you can actually spark her sexuality just through your first conversations, and she’ll be wondering about you, and be curious to meet you and hang out. Who knows you could meet someone who will stay important to you for many years, so hang in there and just chill out.

  47. OminousSilence says:

    @rfc5561 and every other guy that expects a reply to every message even if she’s not interested.

    I’m pretty sure you don’t understand what the women on this site (or any other dating site for that matter) experience. Attractive women tend to get about 50 messages a day (a good half of which are probably along the lines of “Hi I’m a 50 year old recent divorcee and father of seven delinquint children, but on the brightside it looks like I might finally get a job…” and the other half are probably along the lines of those quoted in the article) and only a couple of those will probably catch the interest of the woman. For her to take the time to write a paragraph reply to all of those messages is well over an hour of her time she’s wasting on something she doesn’t care about every day. So yeah she’s not going to reply to every message; stop expecting her to and learn to realize that no reply is the internet form a of polite brushoff.

  48. ablondecouple says:

    Mick’s advice on the 14th sounds like games-playing BS to me. Though of course you must not be offensive in messages.

    Say what you think, when you think it. Don’t worry about whether you seem too eager to communicate or crap like that. Honesty first and foremost!

  49. richmr1967 says:

    So….

    You pretty, me like. coffee?

  50. ryanmgl says:

    So shorter is better!? I’ve never had to live by that, and i’ve done quite well for myself,…. but then again, i never used it on my messaging skills!