In a world where you can click a button and have anything you want arrive at your house instantaneously, people are quick to make snap decisions. The same holds true on dating apps like Tinder and Bumblr. You only get one shot to make a first impression, and if you send the wrong opening message, you could potentially send a woman running far away in the other direction.
As you probably already know, women on dating apps get a ton of messages. The good news for you is that a lot of these messages are terrible, so the bar is relatively low for you to make a good impression. “I think online dating can be great when you connect with the right people, but you have to wade through the enormous cesspool of your inbox to find them,” says Ana* (last name has been withheld to protect sources’ privacy), 26.
Because women are typically deluged by creepy or gross messages, they naturally tend to have their guard up. “We are a little nervous and touchy because a solid percentage of the messages we get are angry, critical, suspicious, or frankly, frightening,” says Liz, 45. You want to make yourself stand out from the crowd and land a date — but you don’t want to make yourself stand out too much by being rude, overly direct, or vulgar.
So what kinds of messages do women actually like getting? We spoke to a few women to get their takes on the worst opening lines they’ve ever received on dating apps and websites — and the best. By making small tweaks to the messages you send (not to mention the kinds of expectations you have about the process), you can up your online dating game and make a real connection with someone in the process.
The copy-pasted message.
Most women have received the impersonal, hastily copy-pasted message before. These messages are usually incredibly generic, with maybe one or two fast facts about the sender (ex: “Hey, TK, how are you? Quick note about me: I love Indian food and corgis.”) While you might think it’s a genius approach, we’re gonna let you in on a little secret: women can tell right away when they get this message.
“It’s very obvious when a guy sends [a copy-pasted message] because he doesn’t even bother to read what’s on my profile,” says Imani, 28. “I took the time to fill out my biography and profile page, and I would expect potential matches would do the same. The same goes for sending a message. I would like to think that a guy would send me something that at least addresses what’s on my profile. If they can’t even do that, I am not interested in conversing with them.”
Yes, it’s good to cast a wide net in the online dating pool. But while you may think that sending a standard message to a bunch of different women is upping your chances of a response, it’s more likely that it will be ignored and deleted on the spot.
“When I receive a message that’s clearly copied and pasted, I just delete it,” says Kara, 25. “It seems like the person sending the message is just playing a numbers game and doesn’t care what kind of response they get. It’s frustrating because I am trying to make a genuine connection with someone, and that kind of message is the exact opposite of what I am going for.”
The “you’re so pretty” message.
While you may find someone attractive, just telling them so isn’t necessarily going to get their attention. Compliments are important, but being genuine is even more so.
So instead of complimenting her physical appearance (trust me, she’s heard it before), say something that’s more specifically tailored to her personality. “When you introduce yourself, ask her about something she wrote in her profile you find interesting,” says Sarey, 37. “Compliment her sense of style or career choice or cool vacation pics. If you just say ‘Hi, you’re so pretty, let’s chat,’ you are automatically putting yourself in the basic-man meat pile.”
By taking the time to read her profile and craft an individualized message, you’re demonstrating that you want to put in the effort to potentially get to know her.
The angry message.
So you sent a message that doesn’t fall into the first or second category, and you haven’t gotten a reply back. Here’s what you shouldn’t do: send her an angry message. “Just move on,” says Sarey. “Nothing is more unattractive than a male’s broken ego.”
“Don’t insult me or comment on my age or my body,” says Emily, 37. (Yes, men: this happens way more to women than you think.)
If you don’t get a response to your message, don’t take it personally. While you may be interested in someone, it might not be mutual. And while it’s OK to feel disappointed by that, it’s never OK to take out your feelings of disappointment on someone else.
The one-word message.
From time to time, you might be tempted to send a “Hey” or “What’s up” message to one of your matches. While you might think it’s an easy conversation starter, you also run the risk of looking lazy.
“One-word messages are the worst,” says Jenny, 30. “Sometimes, when I receive a message like that on OkCupid or Tinder, I have to just roll my eyes. How are you suppose to take anyone seriously whose first message to you is “Wassup?”
Instead of sending a one-word message, try to be creative instead. “I have a few sentences on my dating profile about how sloths are my favourite animal,” says Jenny. “I had a guy message me few months ago with some sloth facts. I thought that was very thoughtful and sort of ingenious. We ended up chatting for a while, went on a date, and we ended up going out for a few months.” Although that relationship didn’t work out, “his unique message really stood out and it’s something I still talk about with my friends.”
Unless she specifically asks for one, sending a woman an explicit message via a dating app is never, ever a good idea. It almost always makes the recipient uncomfortable, and it makes you look like a horny doofus. Even if you’re on a dating app just to hook up, other people could be looking for something different, and it’s important that you respect that. Using explicit language, slurs, or generally being rude is only going to you blocked.
Make an effort to be polite, and try to engage topics that will generate a fun and civil conversation. Sticking to PG-rated topics like music, food, travelling, and animals (see above) is always a solid approach. And if she asks you if you’re interested in exchanging more X-rated texts later on in your relationship, so much the better.
The oversharing message.
When constructing a message to a potential match, it’s important to strike a balance between sharing too few and too many personal details. Talking about your previous relationships, or how your last few dates have gone, is almost never a good idea.
“There have been several times when I’ve gotten a message from a guy off a dating site and I just cringe—they are literally telling me their life’s story in painstaking detail,” says Taryn, 28. “It’s exhausting and overwhelming to read. When I get those kinds of messages, I always wonder why they thought it was a good idea to send in the first place, and I am learning things I am not ready to know or don’t want to know.”
Tone it down, and remember that less is more. Instead of telling your match about your grief over your childhood pet dying, tell her about the last movie you saw instead. Most importantly, ask her questions, and try to keep them open-ended. That way, you can keep the lines of communication open.
The emoji message.
Never send the emoji message. It makes you look lazy and, perhaps more importantly, childish.
“Multiple times, I have gotten messages from grown men that are just a kissing emoji, heart, a handwave etc.,” says Taryn. “I think I hate these might be the kinds of messages almost as much as the ones where the guy is telling me too much, too soon. If you’re just sending an emoji, it looks like you’re not willing to put any effort into dating.”
By Anni Irish