Six Steps to Crafting the Perfect Online Dating Message

I spend a lot of time on online dating sites, and I get a lot of messages. I answer something around 20% of them. The internet has given us access to a nearly infinite supply of potential suitors, and if you want to actually meet someone, you’re going to have to learn to stand out from the crowd. Even on a niche site like SwingTowns you’ll be met with thousands of users, move on to one of the mainstream dating apps and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

The most important thing to do is to get to know the platform you’re working with, they all have their own culture and you’re going to interact slightly differently on all of them, but there are a few tips that work across the board.

Perfect Your Profile

When someone receives your message the first thing they’re going to do is check out your profile to learn a little more about you and “I’m new here, I’ll fill out my profile later” just isn’t going to cut it. It doesn’t need to be a painstakingly crafted novella, in fact it’s probably better if it isn’t, keep it short, sweet, and interesting.

Make sure you have a picture, three or four if the app supports it. Include a few interesting facts about yourself, while avoiding the dating site tropes we all know so well. Don’t tell me you’re “laid back” or “chill”- that just tells me you’re boring. Don’t tell me you’re funny, because I won’t believe you. Instead, make a list of the traits you want to communicate and find ways to incorporate them into your bio without just outright telling the reader what to believe.

Take a tour of some of the other profiles on the platform, getting an idea of what other people include will give you an idea of what that community prioritizes. Tinder bros will always tell you their height, while people on Grinder list their preferred position (top/bottom/vers) and their STI status. OkCupid profiles aim to give you a full picture of the person you’re dating while Tinder users favor brevity (and emojis).

Finally, have a call to action or three, give people something to respond to and they might message you before you even have to message them. Ask a question. Hint at a story that they’ll just be dying to hear more about. My OKC “Message Me If…” section is a full list of things I’d love to do with people, and my Tinder bio invites matches get ice cream with me in one of the best places in NYC. You should be able to come up with at least 10 questions people can ask based on the information in your bio alone, so suitors will never have a shortage of things to ask you about.

Read Their Profile

You cannot message someone based on their picture alone. I repeat. You cannot message someone based on their picture alone. If they wrote something on their profile, odds are it’s something they think it is important for you to know, ideally before you message them.

Tinder Bio

My profiles says that I’m trans, that I’m poly, and that I’m queer, kinky, and feminist. All of these things are very important to me, but also potential deal breakers, and all of these are things I want to give people the opportunity to opt out of. People’s reaction to these things also tell me a whole more about them than anything else can. They’re also all things that people consistently skip over before misgendering me in the first message, or acting surprised when I mention my partner.

You want to make sure that you’re compatible beyond just “their face gives me happy pants feelings” before wasting everyone’s time. Their profile is also going to help you decide what to write next.

Build On What You Read

Pick your top one or two points in the profile and comment on them, if you can, avoid the low hanging fruit. My OKC profile mentions Mario Kart and I get a message at least once a day from people telling me they can beat me. They can’t. I rarely respond because it just doesn’t stand out anymore.

Do they have a picture from a place you love, or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go? Can you talk to them about a show they love, or a hobby they enjoy? Take something they mention and write a sentence or two about your own life. “Wow! I can’t believe you’ve run a marathon! I’m trying to do 3 5k’s a week and it’s already killing me.” or “OMG You like Streetlight Manifesto? I hadn’t heard that name in years but someone actually invited me to see them live a few weeks ago, they were so good!”

Some gentle teasing about a shared interest can even be fun, but you want to be careful it doesn’t come off as arrogance or negging. “I almost swiped left since you have a Vita instead of a DS, but I figured I’d give you a chance to explain yourself.”

The trick here is to draw attention to the things you have in common, and (as unfortunate as it is) display your knowledge on the topic. It’s real easy to pretend you too have a secret undying love for Crossfit or BabyMetal or late nights playing Arkham Horror, but being able to offer a nuanced conversation about them will make you stand out from the crowd.

Ask A Question

Finally, for the love of god, give them something to respond to. I have received so many perfectly lovely messages from people that gave me absolutely nothing to work with, on the other hand I’ve received just as many terrible messages with questions so interesting that I couldn’t help but respond.

I still remember the one suitor that saw that I had listed Bioshock as one of my favorite games and asked what I thought of an immersive Sleep No More type experience set in Rapture. That question alone got him laid. Twice.

Can you ask about a recent plot twist on their favorite show?1 Ask if they’ve played a game similar to one they listed as a favorite. Better yet, if you’re not familiar with something they love, ask them why it’s so great or ask for a recommendation. What’s your favorite cocktail bar in NYC? I’ve actually never seen any Star Trek, which series should I start with?

If someone listed something as a favorite on their profile, chances are they’ll be excited to talk about it, so give them a chance to!

Keep it Short

Just like your profile, you want to keep your message short, sweet and to the point. Keep in mind the platform you’re communicating on- OKC is known for much longer profiles and can get away with 6-8 sentences in a response, Tinder on the other hand has bios under 500 characters, so your first message shouldn’t be more than 2-4 sentences. People choose the dating apps they choose for a reason, and a person on Tinder is looking to invest considerably less time than someone on OKC, message accordingly.

Forget It

Finally, send the message, and then forget it ever happened. I don’t care how long you’ve spent pouring over this person’s bio or their OKC questions, you are not suddenly in love with them. You know nothing about them except the carefully curated personality they created for this site.

They’re going to answer you, or they won’t. Stressing over it won’t change it. Checking their profile every day to see when they were last on won’t change it. Creeping their social media won’t change it. Messaging them again definitely won’t change it (in fact, it will probably make them less likely to respond).

You’re better off treating their response like a happy surprise then stressing over every message you send, because that’s the fastest way to burn out on any dating site. At the end of the day, no matter what you do, some people just won’t message you back, and that’s okay.

Many thanks to SwingTowns for sponsoring this post, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
  1. Make sure they’re up to date first, no spoilers! []

About Bex

Bex talks about sex, a lot, and feels this is the only way to reduce the stigma and lack of education surrounding it. When they're not trying to save the world, talking about sex to strangers, typing frantically, or sticking things in various holes they are usually indulging the other facets of their geekery.

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