Exactly What To Say In A First Message

September 14th, 2009 by Christian Rudder


Ok, here’s the experiment. We analyzed over 500,000 first contacts on our dating site, OkCupid. Our program looked at keywords and phrases, how they affected reply rates, and what trends were statistically significant. The result: a set of rules for what you should and shouldn’t say when introducing yourself. Online dating advice at its best. Let’s go:

Rule 1
Be literate

Netspeak, bad grammar, and bad spelling are huge turn-offs. Our negative correlation list is a fool’s lexicon: ur, u, wat, wont, and so on. These all make a terrible first impression. In fact, if you count hit (and we do!) the worst 6 words you can use in a first message are all stupid slang.

Language like this is such a strong deal-breaker that correctly written but otherwise workaday words like don’t and won’t have nicely above average response rates (36% and 37%, respectively).

Interesting exceptions to the “no netspeak” rule are expressions of amusement. haha (45% reply rate) and lol (41%) both turned out to be quite good for the sender. This makes a certain sense: people like a sense of humor, and you need to be casual to convey genuine laughter. hehe was also a successful word, but much less so (33%). Scientifically, this is because it’s a little evil sounding.

So, in short, it’s okay to laugh, but keep the rest of your message grammatical and punctuated.

Rule 2
Avoid physical compliments

Although the data shows this advice holds true for both sexes, it’s mostly directed at guys, because they are way more likely to talk about looks. You might think that words like gorgeous, beautiful, and sexy are nice things to say to someone, but no one wants to hear them. As we all know, people normally like compliments, but when they’re used as pick-up lines, before you’ve even met in person, they inevitably feel…ew. Besides, when you tell a woman she’s beautiful, chances are you’re not.

On the other hand, more general compliments seem to work well:

The word pretty is a perfect case study for our point. As an adjective, it’s a physical compliment, but as an adverb (as in, “I’m pretty good at sports.”) it’s is just another word.

When used as an adverb it actually does very well (a phenomenon we’ll examine in detail below), but as pretty‘s uses become more clearly about looks, reply rates decline sharply. You’re pretty and your pretty are phrases that could go either way (physical or non-). But very pretty is almost always used to describe the way something or someone looks, and you can see how that works out.

Rule 3
Use an unusual greeting

We took a close look at salutations. After all, the way you choose to start your initial message to someone is the “first impression of your first impression.” The results surprised us:

The top three most popular ways to say “hello” were all actually bad beginnings. Even the slangy holla and yo perform better, bucking the general “be literate” rule. In fact, it’s smarter to use no traditional salutation at all (which earns you the reply rate of 27%) and just dive into whatever you have to say than to start with hi. I’m not sure why this is: maybe the ubiquity of the most popular openings means people are more likely to just stop reading when they see them.

The more informal standard greetings: how’s it going, what’s up, and howdy all did very well. Maybe they set a more casual tone that people prefer, though I have to say, You had me at ‘what’s up’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Rule 4
Don’t take it outside

Obviously, all successful OkCupid relationships outgrow our in-site messaging feature. But an offer to chat or of an email address right off the bat is a sure turn off. One of the things online dating has going for it is its relative anonymity, and if you start chipping away at that too early, you’ll scare the other person off.

Also, don’t ask for or give away a cell number (10%). I thought that was a no-brainer.

Rule 4
Bring up specific interests

There are many words on the effective end of our list like zombie, band, tattoo, literature, studying, vegetarian (yes!), and metal (double yes!) that are all clearly referencing something important to the sender, the recipient, or, ideally, both. Talking about specific things that interest you or that you might have in common with someone is a time-honored way to make a connection, and we have proof here that it works. We’re presenting just a smattering: in fact every “niche” word that we have significant data on has a positive effect on messaging.

Even more effective are phrases that engage the reader’s own interests, or show you’ve read their profile:

Rule 5
If you’re a guy, be self-effacing

Awkward, sorry, apologize, kinda, and probably all made male messages more successful, yet none of them except sorry affects female messages. As we mentioned before, pretty, no doubt because of its adverbial meaning of “to a fair degree; moderately” also helps male messages. A lot of real-world dating advice tells men to be more confident, but apparently hemming and hawing a little works well online.

It could be that appearing unsure makes the writer seem more vulnerable and less threatening. It could be that women like guys who write mumbly. But either way: men should be careful not to let the appearance of vulnerability become the appearance of sweaty desperation: please is on the negative list (22% reply rate), and in fact it is the only word that is actually worse for you than its netspeak equivalent (pls, 23%)!

Rule 6
Consider becoming an atheist

Mentioning your religion helps you, but, paradoxically, it helps you most if you have no religion. We know that’s going to piss a lot of people off, and we’re more or less tongue-in-cheek with this advice, but it’s what the numbers say.

These are the religious terms that appeared a statistically significant number of times. Atheist actually showed up surprisingly often (342 times per 10,000 messages, second only to 552 mentions of christian and ahead of 278 for jewish and 142 for muslim).

Though very few people actually do it, invoking the sky-breaking thunderbolts of zeus does help a person get noticed (reply rate 56%), but maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise on a site that is itself named for a member of the Classical pantheon. So if you can’t bring yourself to deny the deity, consider opening yourself up to a whole wacky bunch of them. But ideally you should just disbelieve the whole thing. It can help your love life, and, besides, if there really was a god, wouldn’t first messages always get a reply?

A word about user privacy on OkCupid

Though this post talks in detail about the content of people’s messages on OkCupid, all messages have been anonymized, with sender and recipient data and all IP and timestamp information stripped out. In addition, our analysis program looked at messages only two or three words at a time, to track the success of certain words or phrases (like “what’s up” vs. “wats up”). The program then aggregated results by phrase before presenting the data. No one at OkCupid read any actual user messages to compile this post.

523 Responses to “Exactly What To Say In A First Message”

  1. MaeBest says:

    I would also be interested in seeing a height weight scale summery. It was extremely interesting to learn that both men and women stretch the truth about their height equally. I would be similarly as fascinated in learning the statistics of folks who fabricate their own truth about their weight. It seems so silly to me to lie about either if you are actually planning to meet someone. Although the excuses one would make up about why they are 2 inches shorter, or 50 pounds heavier may sound funnier in my head than verbalized.

  2. nick says:

    That is so bizarre about the religion aspect and I have noticed that the vast majority of women online really do not practice any religion. I guarantee you 90% of these people also have at least 3 tattoos and don’t have a clear cut idea of what they want to do for a living. I know this is passing judgment and a little unfair to say but, just see for yourself.

    Why do most women really disguise their personalities and don’t expect men not to through out petty compliments? When you say “I like to have fun with my friends” that says absolutely nothing about you… No wonder their is such a negative stereotype to internet dating from a female perspective, they just don’t take it seriously or put much faith in it.

  3. Elliot says:

    all of this seems like go info, ill give it a try because my last emails have not worked jack shit for me or my profile.

  4. Saadia says:

    WOW I get why my stupid netspeak turns guys off now. I wish I read this article earlier!!! AND CALM DOWN PEOPLE! The point was to keep religion out of context until you get to know the person better.

  5. Jesus says:

    I wasn’t going to comment but I couldn’t work out if this was sarcasm, trolling or deluded ranting (I’ll assume the first):

    “Atheists love to feel persecuted. That high number comes from idiots saying, “It’s so hard to find attractive atheists who *understand* me.” No it’s not. Freaking everybody on the Internet is an atheist. Get over yourselves.”

    It made me want to know the correlation between atheism and having a sense of humour because it sure looks like practically the same thing all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum after reading that. Look at Jon Stewart and Colbert vs the FOX news crowd. Yes he’s jewish but his audience is largely atheist or at least made up of those that don’t take their religion so seriously, including himself.

    Any atheist would be just be thinking ‘WTF????’ and then laughing their head off. Athiests are immune from feeling persecuted, as atheists at least, since by definition is doesn’t define any part of their ego and where is this one

    Yes it can come across as being an insensitive asshole to those on the other side but being able to laugh at the world in general probably helps quite a lot in coming across as less serious, which seems to correlate with getting more responses.

    PS: sorry if this is a duplicate post but I got no indication that the first one did anything.

  6. Mostafa says:

    its Terrible to make GOD the last thing on the list ! Wake up people pleaaaaaaase!

  7. James says:

    I don’t think denying God is going to help you find a girlfriend bud.

  8. Alexei says:

    How’s it going? You mention (band, zombie, movies), and I pretty much think (band, zombie, movies) are awesome. Especially when (band played, zombieland, movie scene). Sorry, I never really know what to say at first in these.

    This much is 189 characters without spaces, 226 with. This is what gets replies. Apparently insight doesn’t matter (show me where there’s space for it). . . it’s all about the first impression of being only mildly interested.

    (optional)–if you’re both atheist: I admire your atheism .. or .. Do the christians bug you too? (Author of this comment is christian)

  9. Vivek S Panicker says:

    It was really helpful. I used to send wink but couldn’t see any replies. Recently I found a girl very attractive and sent her a message by saying, “You look awesome. Keep up”. Surprisingly she replied to that message and she added me to her friends list!

  10. Randy says:

    What I find most interesting is that when people say they’re atheist, they most of the time mean they’re agnostic. Atheism is the disbelief in any or all supreme beings, deities, gods, what have you, and when you ask an “atheist” if they believe there could be a supreme power, but not neccassarily “God” per se, they often agree. Thats agnosticism… and this is something that I’ve noticed a lot growing up.

    however, I have to say, the section on “net-speak” is pretty funny because it’s true, all of that lingo is super annoying, and nothing is worse than when someone actually says “lol” in the real world instead of actually laughing.

    anyway, just my two cents.

  11. RD C says:

    I find it really interesting to approach this from the viewpoint of a study on modern sexuality. As a male, I find all of these rules that we’ve created most often take me away from being myself, while increasing my success in meeting people at the same time. I find that I am consistently rewarded for not being myself, and instead acting like the person that society and women would accept. I am certain that I am not alone in this. Suppose, for example, that I found something genuinely very interesting about a female’s online dating profile. I would hold back the impulse to communicate with great enthusiasm, because I know that most women would be turned off by this. Should I really describe my life philosophy or what really drives me or makes me happy in this life, in my profile? By and large, I have found that a long profile is seen as a negative or “too intense”. I could go on and on. This whole process turns people into robots. I wish that we, as a people, could find it in ourselves to move beyond these very narrowly defined cultural roles. For example, 95% of women will never message a guy online. By the same token, 95% of women will never ever approach a man in public, no matter how attractive or interesting that man seems to her. I find it inexplicable that we as a as a society would create such strict rules for the way people “should” act. What this creates is a society of men who learn be hyper-aggressive, both in the real world and virtually. Yet women often complain about man’s warlike agro tendencies. I blame no particular sex, this is something that we need to work through as a culture and as a humanity. I just wish, even though it seems impossible, that we as a society could find a way to expect nothing, unlearn with joy, and be free, both in the way that we receive those around us, and in our own personal freedom of expression.

  12. RDK says:

    I find it really interesting to approach this from the viewpoint of a study on modern sexuality. As a male, I find all of these rules that we’ve created most often take me away from being myself, while increasing my success in meeting people at the same time. I find that I am consistently rewarded for not being myself, and instead acting like the person that society and women would accept. I am certain that I am not alone in this. Suppose, for example, that I found something genuinely very interesting about a female’s online dating profile. I would hold back the impulse to communicate with great enthusiasm, because I know that most women would be turned off by this. Should I really describe my life philosophy or what really drives me or makes me happy in this life, in my profile? By and large, I have found that a long profile is seen as a negative or “too intense”. I could go on and on. This whole process turns people into robots. I wish that we, as a people, could find it in ourselves to move beyond these very narrowly defined cultural roles. For example, 95% of women will never message a guy online. By the same token, 95% of women will never ever approach a man in public, no matter how attractive or interesting that man seems to her. I find it inexplicable that we as a as a society would create such strict rules for the way people “should” act. What this creates is a society of men who learn be hyper-aggressive, both in the real world and virtually. Yet women often complain about man’s warlike agro tendencies. I blame no particular sex, this is something that we need to work through as a culture and as a humanity. I just wish, even though it seems impossible, that we as a society could find a way to expect nothing, unlearn with joy, and be free, both in the way that we receive those around us, and in our own personal freedom of expression.

  13. Nicko89 says:

    I’ve witnessed the same scenarios every dating site i’ve gone to.

    Match.com
    EHarmony
    Plenty of Fish
    Jazzed
    Evow
    etc.

    It has all treated me the same, and it seems no amount of methods could help gain even the slightest response of someone who would actually enjoy at least having a conversation with me, and maybe want to date later. I give out a message i barely receive any responses, and the worst of it is that many of the same women don’t even look at my profile. Now i’m wondering if i’m talking to some robot….i don’t even know. How much of myself can i present to a woman, it almost seems as if everyone want’s someone, and yet no one wants anyone.

    Online dating is just starting to become extremely tedious, but i keep lingering on thinking someone might find me interesting. I’m decent looking, i have goals, i have a future, i keep my priorities straight. Maybe i just can’t when in a pool of bad apples

  14. Dwight Morrison says:

    Interesting array of views, I must say my experience of online dating is like online marketing trying to come up with the next big idea and attraction as many sales as possible all this using the right words and saying the right thing is like google adwords granted I’ll be trying some if not all these methods and seeing where it gets me along as I’m not selling my soul.

  15. Somebody says:

    So here is the perfect message using what I gleaned from the above:

    Hey Senorita girly,

    Very sorry to interrupt you but I want to tell you how nice you are and I might add pretty awesome…haha. If Zeus was still stalking about he would snag you in his wife sack in a flash of lightening…haha. Although you didn’t mention it in your profile, I can imagine you playing lead guitar in a metal zombie band…well…sorry…that certainly came out in an awkward way. Sorry, maybe I just said that as I have been browsing the literature about zombies, tattoos and piercings. Do you know that they all originated in Transylvania with Vlad III the Impaler? You no doubt know of the tortures he inflicted. If his victims survived they were turned into well pierced zombies. Tattoos were a means of marking his subjects as punishments, marks of rank, and as a means of sending orders to his cohorts. That’s pretty awesome isn’t it…haha? By the way I am an Atheist…sorry.

  16. Mike says:

    Interesting article, and especially the response the religion analysis has received.

    I’m sure the actual process of getting that reply also includes checking the sender’s profile, that is, not only the message sent. You guys have done such a great job teasing out fascinating information from the databases here, i wonder if you could manage an analysis of that dynamic.

    By the way, I do list myself as an atheist and have read many profiles of people fitting that plus other criteria, particularly education, and can see a number of correlations, such as an affinity for NPR. Make of that what you will.

  17. amolibri says:

    Very good points. Useful information too. I’ve caught some “spammy” messages, where it’s pretty obvious that people are “broadcasting” or “trolling” by sending the same message to many recipients. I’ve never had anyone admit it…but there are no further messages from them either! ;~)
    There are SO many errors in grammar and spelling…that it’s really sad. People who say they are college graduates, don’t know the difference between “then” and “than”, “your” and “you’re”, their, thier, there, they’re, etc. Run a spell-check at least, for pete’s sake.
    Also anyone who mentions “head games” or “drama queens”….OUT OUT OUT.

  18. Jeff says:

    Dear Believer and particularly Evangelical Xians,

    I am an atheist. As such, I don’t deny the existence of a god. As an atheist I lack a belief in a god. The total absence of something, such as a belief, is not something in and of itself. That I don’t have this belief and you do does not require of me a denial just because you wish to deny we live within a secular society.

    Be an atheist if you want to date me and be trusted.

  19. Cori says:

    I would think that saying “what’s up” or “how’s it going” is more successful because they are questions and give you something to say in a response… I realize it’s a message, but a question actually INVITES a response. The guy could be sending messages to several girls each day, if you don’t respond, someone will. It’s like an ice breaker. Easy question first, go from there.

  20. NeedaYenta says:

    I’ve used online dating sites on and off for 6 years, and it has been interesting to say the least. To the guys out there getting frustrated by a lack of response, understand that men outnumber women 9 to 1 on most sites. So for every 1 email you send, I receive 9. It’s no wonder you don’t hear back from everyone. I had so many responses, I lined up 3-5 dates a day until I found what I was looking for. I doubt that most women have that kind of time, so just understand it’s a matter of supply and demand. Don’t take it personal. Also, try using a line in the email that you would use in person. You notice something about her, and comment on it. That means you have to read her entire profile, and then comment on what you found interesting or curious. “Your trip to Greece sounds awesome! I’d love to hear more about it.” Do not ask a closed ended question. Ask an open ended question that requires more than a one word answer. That is Sales 101 and we’re all selling here- selling the idea that a future with us would be awesome! My last point to all the men out there… Remember this one thing for the rest of your lives… Smart women want to hear that they are beautiful (attractive, cute, etc.) Beautiful women want to hear that they are smart. Give them what they want and you’ll be in faster than a tatooed athiest joins a metal band. Good luck.

  21. Micah says:

    This is one of the most interesting blogs I’ve ever read. In reading the comments it seems as if I’m reading my own thoughts. I’ve had all these thoughts except for the bit by the judgmental prude. That person is just closed minded and locked in a bubble. Anyway, the bit about online dating marketing. I think this guy is on to something. I’ve actually thought about this often. I’ve dated some girls that I’ve met from dating websites. I’ve created profiles that were following the popular trend, status quo, as to “not rock the boat”, follow all the pickup artist rules of social engagement and I definitely get more responses ultimately leading to more dates. I’ve also created an experimental profile that most resembles my true personality. Unfortunately, the fake profile won by a landslide. It’s sad that my true personality was considered the experimental. There are a few interesting points here. To justify using a status quo profile is to increase the chances of actually meeting your potential mate. “Foot in the door”. Online dating has become another layer of meeting your “soul mate”. Technology is making the world a smaller place but at the same time separating ourselves from actual interpersonal interaction. Texting is a great example and it can go both ways. Some may be better at communication through text but I would think the majority of couples have met through actual conversation in person. Here is the new order of meeting someone you may hit it off with: 1. Wink, 2. Message, 3. Facebook, 4. Texting, 5. Telephone (this is the first time you actually hear your potential date’s voice and this can go on for several weeks), Finally, you meet for a date. New rules of engagment are here. Try going out of order and you may find that the female is turned off. The perfect message was very funny, sorry for saying so. I actually have a pierced zombie tatoo. Maybe that’s why I’ve had 452 dates in the last two years.

  22. The Flying Spaghetti Monster says:

    I wonder if atheists get more replies because there’s more of them on this site, due to the fact that it’s hard to find non-atheists who are willing to date one (at least from my experience, which mostly involves people telling me I’m going to hell).

  23. John says:

    I’m sure the “Atheist Connection” is just that; even among young people, it’s still a christian society, and finding another Atheist – though not difficult, especially with the match system – gives you a sense of connection. Maybe not a place to start, but that’s one important set of values that I know we then have in common!

  24. poopoo says:

    I know why “apologize” and “kinda” and “pardon the expression” improve the chances of guys.

    It’s because on your site 98 percent of the respondents are Americans; 1.9 percent are Canadians; and .1 percent are Britons.

    When an American writes something, and he wants to say, “great dame, accept my apology for interacting, and please note how I did not write please,” by the time it is typed, it mophrs on the screen as “adpfoigu n-ae98g aw3 ey w0uyawerugyae wiuer” then the American clicks on SAND.

    I blame the American Public School system, and of course the Republicans.

    So your data was collected from canadians to canadians. This is why the apologetic words were so successful: we, in canada, use “could I bother you to… sorry, I apologize, I did not mean to interrupt your apology to the gameswarden” much like you Amys use “goddamned mofo shit-for-brains” or “my bitch, your bitch, whose bitch” and “fucking”, which Amy phrases are typed as “adsfogae ae gxclk nuhy 8tu jlepy.” sdopfigh si”, “diuhyftr gy er7yg” and “golly”. Of course nobody uses spell check coz if they did, the users would not recognize the suggestions. Bill Gates needs to invent a universal icon that simply signifies, “fuck you asshole” and then the suggestion department would be organized and quite again.

  25. gege says:

    the worst 6 words you can use in a first message are all stupid slang

    Famous last words. In twenty years they will be the most intelligent words.

    I mean, look at christianity. They started out as a bunch of lion-feed, and they went on to great fortune and fame, their stronghold on European civilization only weakened in the last 50-60 years. After 2000 glorious and mostly celibate years that their zenith lasted.

  26. Rose says:

    For me, it’s not so much that physical compliments are a bad thing, it’s that when they are there there are usually no other compliments. I don’t mind when someone tells me I’m pretty when s/he also says that it’s fascinating that I’m a composer or that I’m smart. But with all the info that I have about myself on my profile, if all you have to say is that I’m pretty or I have a nice smile, and nothing about anything else, the message that sends is that my value is in my looks and all my talents and accomplishments are unimportant. See how that isn’t all that flattering? I don’t want to date someone who treats me as an object, who should be seen and not heard.

    That’s what I think this advice ties into. Compliment him/her on personality rather than looks, mention specific interests… all that suggests that you’ve read his/her profile and find it intriguing. Not just looked at his/her photos and decided that that is enough. After all, if the photos are all you need, then it kind of is true that you only value the person for his/her looks, right?

  27. Rose says:

    Also, dude above me is hilarious. How many of those “452 dates” actually led to relationships, or even just second dates? Considering your profile is ONE BIG LIE!

    And a “magic formula”? Women are not The Borg. We all have different things we like. Personally, I find winks highly cheesy and can’t stand them. I also don’t like texting when someone could easily call me.

  28. HydraJen says:

    There’s nothing metal about being a vegetarian. Just sayin’ :P

  29. brenda says:

    awkwerd is better i like saying that

  30. ravenfairydust says:

    “Consider becoming an atheist” is a rather ironic advice coming from a dating site, a place where people demonstratively have trouble establishing and maintaining good relationships– hence their presence (and subsequent failure) here. You know, another interpretation could be that someone who IS able to establish a relationship with anyone -including God- is therefore unrelatable to the typical dating site user.

    …just saying.

  31. Bobby says:

    Just started out trying this online dating scene and I can tell you its a lot harder than it sounds, I m a guy and must have sent out dozens and dozens of messages do all different and interesting women. I do NOT send out the typical messages that most do by coming up with one or 2 paragraphs and mass emailing them out to hundreds of women, I actually take the time to read their profile and write back something into relation to what their interests or favorite movie might be, it has gotten me no where!!!!

  32. Rich says:

    I think it’s really a sad commentary on society, that religion seems to be a turn-off. I made the mistake of marrying someone who was not truly a Christian and it helped to contribute to an unhappy relationship before she divorced me (she got what she wanted – kids – and had no use for me afterwards). My faith and beliefs are extremely important to me and if I have to wait a long time before I find someone who shares those beliefs, so be it.

  33. Tim L says:

    Obviously atheists are more likely to show up on this online dating site. I find that the term is useful as a proxy for certain characteristics (especially for girls, though obviously I don’t have as much experience with guys’ profiles) – multiple piercings, short pink hair, fondness for certain “unique” music genres. As such, because I don’t match with that personality type, I have checked all but atheist on religion when I browse. It has nothing to do with my ideology. I just like to screen out certain types of people.

    Compare this site to average, secular, big-city society. I have many friends who are non-religious or only nominally religious. Among my religious friends, relatively few are visibly or vocally religious. Yet at the same time, I have only several friends/acquaintances who would openly describe themselves as “atheists and very/somewhat serious about it.” I should add that the handful of vocal atheists are all guys!

    I must emphasize again that I have nothing against atheism. I am quite skeptical myself on matters of religion. But that particular “finding” in the outline above is not at all surprising, and also represents one of the most significant differences between the OKCupid community and the mainstream, 20-something urban community.

  34. kenzie0913 says:

    I have to say I found this very interesting to read. I found myself thinking about the messages I send as well as the once I receive. I feel like most of it is pretty accurate. I know personally I like to feel like the person messaging me actually has read through my profile or at least seems really friendly then I will respond. Of course this “study” did not take other factors into consideration like looks. I know that it is human nature that people will take that into consideration. If someone is better looking they are probably more likely to respond to a message that isn’t as friendly or personal. That is just a guess, but something to point out. When I was scrolling through I saw they did do a study with looks. I guess I’ll have to check it out!

  35. CC says:

    I WILL NEVER DENY GOD!! EVER!

  36. CupidstrikesU says:

    I believe the difficulty rests upon the unnatural medium of a written message as it applies to the ambience of dating and first impressions. In communicating, a person comprehends more in what they see non-verbally than what they hear verbally. In this light, a person can easily jest using a “look” to inform their counterpart that they are not being serious. This is the courtship, so to speak, of flirting with light or hard sarcasm that promotes wit and charm, interest, and other aspects that all rely heavily upon eye contact and non-verbal clues.

    Most of us have grown up to a natural, face-to-face approach that simply cannot be expressed equally in a written message. How can a person be funny or charismatic when they can’t roll words off their tongue, roll their eyes, give a certain look or a facial expression of a half-crooked smile? In most cases, it cannot be done, and in doing so, people lose their most effective way to communicate. This results in difficulty with what to say in written form because it must not only sound like a person is saying it, but it also must be said non-verbally, thus becoming somewhat unnatural.

    In effect, “Exactly What To Say In A First Message” is a contradiction because you cannot “say” something that is “written.” To be effective in your first message, just imagine that you are talking to a blind person, and you can talk only like a robot. All your words will come out the same manner, tone, and style. Your message cannot be over-bloated with unnecessary words. They should be short, simple, and concise. The specificity should relate to a common interest, and not complicated; which means only ask one or two question. Do not become an interrogator.

    The situation will become more difficult if you succeed in this first attempt, because now the next step is “Exactly What To Say When Someone Responses To Your First Message.” In another words, it will be much more difficult to keep the flow going. I suggest changing the medium as soon as possible to the face-to-face meeting where you will be able to utilize your best ability, the non-verbal cues. Phones and IM’s are fine, but written messages will ultimately become dull. However, all that is just my opinion.

  37. Mark says:

    I’m not claiming to be an expert at this by any means. I’m fairly certain that I’m in the top 20% of male users on here looks wise. I get a message every other day or so, mostly from women that I am not physically attracted to. So when I do find a girl that I find attractive, I still have to message her first. She may have viewed my profile, but I’m still taking the initiation.

    I would also say my success rate on messages returned is higher than the average as well. I probably get back 35-40% of the messages I send out, due to factors like last login in, the women I message get 9 messages a day, ect.

    While I don’t have a cut and dry copy/paste message I send out (I met a woman from here, and over drinks, she told me her and her roommate are always getting the same exact messages from men) I do tend to stick with the same basic formula.

    Hey, How’s it going?

    I noticed (your in school/ like eminem, hate puppies) and I’m now wondering ( when you graduate, if you like jay-z too, how many puppies you’ve murdered). And then try to make some sort comment that shows I have a joking side too.

    I’m 6’3, and the girl I took out for drinks is 4’11.

    So my first message to her was “You’re 4’11, how tall is too tall?” and it generated a response while usually she is getting a “hey, what’s up?” or something overly complimentary or overly sexual.

  38. Aussenansicht says:

    (First sorry for bad usage of the english language, need more practice ;-) )

    @Randy (Oct 5th,2010)
    I know, that’s a old post.

    But – hey, it’s the only one makes sense :-)

    The rest of you – it is interesting how this article is being misunderstood. And – what shows the simplicity of the common crowd – it is remarkable what the reactions on the religions-part of the article are.

    Some of you are really, really blinded by the sun… You see the words “god” and “no religion” and immediately you get your guns and are ready to fight. Hey – no one on this article said something bad about your religion. And – maybe that’s typical american: no tolerance to the nonbeliver – this reminds me of the people you’re fighting against in your war on terror…

    Have a nice day.

  39. cj says:

    I will take a stand for God in all His Glory…forever…..

  40. Dorje013 says:

    @ RD C, RDK, Micah: Yup, study social dynamics…. “You and me baby are nothing but mammals…” and as far as most people go, they have no control over whether or not they are attracted to you. If you want a chance, you must create attraction, it is the male’s role. You should also consider why a woman may not be attracted to who you “really are”… it is because you are demonstrating lower survival or social value with your behavior. If you can understand it, you can change it. I’m not saying to pretend to be someone you are not, but your issues are being brought to light and you now have an opportunity to decide if this is truly “you” or maybe you’d like to change?

    Anyway, this article is SO INCOMPLETE because the #1 factor in whether you will get a reply to your message is your photos.

  41. CGG says:

    What…no “Howdy”?

  42. hahaha!! says:

    To Mark above….

    I have to agree with the “method”… I have been on OKC for about a month now. This has landed me about a couple of dates a week. I get to be very selective, and I have a strict protocol I follow. I typically get at least a message a day. I would consider my looks to be above average, yet I also carry myself well out in public. I find it all of this to be very satisfying and enjoyable. I have a tendency to have filled up my inbox in this short amount of time.

    But what is striking the most are the amount of hypocrites that are out there…. Yes ladies , you.. Why do you win k at me when you explicitly state that you don’t like it and find it “creepy”. Why do you think it is ok for you to do it?? Also don’t “save” so you can watch me come on, or when I say hello, you say you just saved me to “look” at my profile later…pffft!!! right..hahahaha!!

    Too all those poor guys out there that are having such a hard time, go back and reevaluate yourself. Go find an alpha and pick up some ideas that work. I am not talking about puffing out your chest and being just physically stronger, but start with your self esteem. That carry’s a lot of weight. Like my buddy says “Fake till you make it.”

    Another thing, I wish OkC had a anonymous button where after you had a date , you can click an option of if you scored ( got laid,. what ever you want to call it) or not. I would LOVE to see the statiscal data on this. I would have ding that button quite a few times all ready.

    Oh yeah,, I feel really , really , really, and I mean really bad for you short guys out there, I have never, seen such direct discrimination ever in my life… I guess it helps with me being 6’4″ and confident…..remember, confidence!!, don’t confuse it for cockiness!

    All I have to say is THANK YOU OkC!!!!

  43. soultr says:

    I think you need to also look at the countries the letters are written to or from. If you write to achristian country and tell the lady you not believe in God, you will get few responces.

  44. Justin says:

    Why is it every time that the OKC staff posts a scientific (although humorously disseminated) study of some sort, these comments turn into a whine-fest about people feeling jaded about religion, looks, the fact that other people won’t message them, or whatever else they feel the need to complain about?

    This article was very informative and take it for what it is… an analysis of data which may or may not help you in achieving more responses to your messages.

  45. GilinX9 says:

    I think atheist zombies are cool and awesome, especially when they debate about metaphysics. =]

  46. Ed says:

    I’m sorry but this is all bullshit.

    I’ve been an atheist since my teens and I did everything in this blog innately even before reading it. I’m not a person that gives compliments for the sake of giving compliments. Am I getting women trying to make out with me left and right? No. Hell, I’d kill for a woman to talk to!!

    Face it, Women just don’t take dating websites that seriously, especially free ones. They don’t use it as a means to get dates, they use it as a means to get attention. That’s the truth. They just don’t give a shit.

  47. shelly says:

    Cool insights…I think most are true on a subliminal level. There should be a study on code words that women use like ‘curvy’, voluptuous’, BBW, ‘thick’, or ‘full-figured’…Can we all be honest and look again at the very adequate, universal word, ‘FAT’ ! Puhleeez. Overweight is overweight people. Put down the food and and ya won’t have to come up with silly code words that try to cover up the fact that f-a-t is not spelled f-i-t.

  48. LS says:

    Maybe I’m in the minority here but, most of the stuff about what women respond to doesn’t apply to me at all. I don’t have any problem with being complimented on my looks. In fact I like it. I also look for enthusiasm, sincerity, intelligence and uniqueness in the message. Bottom line though, if I’m not attracted physically then I’m not going to respond, although I might appreciate someone’s effort, and even let them know that.

  49. Andrew says:

    The height difference might be due to intelligence and income difference. Socially awkward internet users are more likely to be more intelligent than average and to come from a more priviledged background than the average person. Specifically, it is extremely unlikely that people with IQ below 80 would be active internet users.

  50. Joe says:

    I have been already using all the info that was said on here. Well everything except for being an atheist because I’m not. I’m agnostic. But I still don’t get any replies. I am nice when I message someone. I try and give them a little background info on myself. I don’t comment on their looks mostly because I think its sort of sleazy. I mean I am messaging you. That right there should tell you that I think you are attractive. I try not to say to much and I try not to say to little. I also don’t say anything that is to personal and I don’t just put Hello or Hay in the sub line. Its normally something quick that has to do with a thing I liked about their profile. I even end with something nice like “I can’t wait to hear from you.”.

    But then I come back the next day to see they have been logged on at some point in that day so they did get the message and think ok they are busy. But a few days go by and I don’t even get a reply. Now that is what pisses me off! At least acknowledge my fucking existence! Tell me you have already meet someone or you don’t think we would go well together. Or even I think your ugly would be better than nothing at all!

    I reply to every message that comes my way even if I don’t like the girl just so she knows I at least got her message. I would expect the women to do the same.