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How to write a great first message

Carlton Boyce / 31 July 2018

You’ve only got one chance to make a first impression – here’s how to make your first message to someone you like on a dating site count.

A man writes a message to a new love on a dating site

So, you’ve seen an online dating profile you really like; they look great and sound really interesting and you can’t wait to send them a message because you feel you’ve got so much in common.

But steady on tiger; you’ve only got one chance to make a first impression and you don’t want to fall at the first hurdle by sending anything other than the very best message you possibly can!

Here are our top tips for getting an online conversation going.

Take your time

The most important thing is to take your time. There’s no hurry and while you might be tempted to dash off a quick message because you’re convinced they’re The One, it’s better to take the time to think about what you want to say and how best to say it.

Also, smartphones are not the easiest things to type on, so it might be better to use a tablet or, even better, a laptop or desktop computer to avoid the sort of typos that come from tapping out a message on a tiny screen.

Are you ready to start dating again?

Read their profile

Please read their profile carefully because they’ll tell you how to capture their attention and tempt them to reply. Remember, they’re on a dating website because they want to meet someone, so their mindset is positively disposed to engage with people they find interesting.

So why not ask them about any hobbies they’ve mentioned? Or talk about the things you’ve got in common. Or, if you’re brave enough, why not go a bit left-field and ask them what makes them happy? Don’t go overboard and turn it into an interrogation, but showing interest is an attractive trait.

Dating profile jargon explained

Use their name

People love hearing their own name, so use it if you know it. It also shows you’ve made more of an effort than would be the case of you just started your message with ‘hi’.

Find love, romance and fun with Saga Dating, a site you can trust - we're members of the Online Dating Association. Set up your free profile today and browse over 100,000 potential matches.

For men only…

While we’re on the subject of making an effort, women apparently get a lot more messages than men – and a dull opening like ‘hi, how are you?’ (and messages like this are a lot more common than you might think) isn’t going to get anyone’s pulse racing, is it?

But, you can use this to your advantage because a carefully crafted message that shows that you’re interested in them and have taken the time to read their profile will differentiate you from the oafish bores that’ve been pestering them so far!

Everyone loves receiving a great message – and women tell me that intelligence and thoughtfulness are very attractive traits in a man.

Dating ice breakers: first date conversation tips

Subjects to avoid

The rules here are the same as they are for a dinner party with people you don’t know, so it’s probably best to avoid politics and religion.

On the other hand, if the subject of your desire is, let’s say, a vegan, or a regular church goer, or a hard-core political activist then it would be okay to mention this if you share those views – but please don’t start an argument with them if you don’t.

Oh, and it’s not a great idea to mention how much you hate/miss/still love your ex. In fact, if you feel any of those emotions it’s probably a good idea to skip the whole dating scene for another few weeks…

5 things you should never ask on a first date

Use humour sparingly

You might think that your sense of humour could give Michael McIntyre a run for his money but the written word can lack the subtlety of the spoken word and when the recipient can’t see your body language and hear the inflection in your voice, your jokes run the risk of falling flat or, even worse, coming across as genuinely upsetting.

So, it’s probably better to use humour sparingly until you know each other better…  

The five best things about online dating

Be honest

Please don’t try to be someone you’re not. It is all too easy to be tempted to try to impress someone by saying things that might not be completely accurate.

So, just relax, and be yourself! After all, if you’re meant to be together then the other person will like you for who you are, not who you pretend to be.

Having said that, now might be a good time to think about who you would like to be and reinvent yourself in that image. For example, if you’d love to be able to say that you’ve run a marathon, visit the theatre regularly, volunteer with a charity, or read 19th century Russian authors, then why not actually do it?

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short... Sweetheart)

Your first message should probably be short and simple. Experts suggest that three to four sentences are probably enough because your aim here is to make them curious enough to reply and ask their own questions.

Also, long messages can come across as being a bit weird - and everyone’s a bit more vigilant online than they would be in a face-to-face meeting.

Proof-read your reply

If your spelling tends to be a bit hit-and-miss, it’s worth drafting your message in something like Word first. Doing this makes checking it for spelling and grammatical mistakes a doddle and you’ll only need to cut-and-paste it into the message box once you’re happy with it.

(And while I’m an advocate of quality over quantity, it does also mean you can save a basic message very easily, tailoring it to suit future circumstances as necessary. But don’t tell anyone I told you that, will you?)

Text-speak and abbreviations

Apparently almost no-one of our generation likes text speak. So, if ur 2 laz 2 spel proply (and you’ve no idea how painful I found writing that…) you might be limiting the pool of potential partners.

Dealing with rejection

You might, if you’re lucky, receive a message back saying thanks but no thanks. More often, you’ll hear nothing at all, which is a bit boorish but is pretty much the norm, I’m afraid.

Please don’t take it personally; it is a bit of a numbers game and you really do need to keep persevering!

How do you know if someone likes you?

Take it steady

While every relationship is different, few people are happy to exchange phone numbers or email addresses in the first few messages. Being over-eager can also be a bit off-putting - and might even be a bit scary if the person with whom you’re chatting has had a bad experience in the past.

So, it’s probably better to keep the first few messages light-hearted and easygoing. If you’ve exchanged a few messages and seem to be getting on well then it’s probably time to negotiate the tricky next stage of your relationship and ask if they’d like to chat on the phone, or even meet in person… 

Have you tried Internet dating? If so, why not share your tips for a great first message with our readers by emailing

Ready to meet someone new and find love online? Try Saga Dating to meet like-minded singles who share your interests and outlook on life. Saga Dating is a site you can trust - we're members of the Online Dating Association.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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