3 Message Mistakes Men Make & What to Write Instead

This is a guest post by Em Hammel – the founder of MenAskEm, where she shares smart online dating advice for men. 

Your first message is usually your first impression in online dating. Unfortunately, too many guys with good intentions blow it by making one of several common mistakes, loathed by women across the Internet.

Here are 3 of the biggest mistakes – what NOT to write in a first message – and what to write instead:

DON’T Tell Her She’s Pretty

…Or sexy, cute, stunning, gorgeous, or… You get the idea. OkCupid’s research explains why this is:

“Avoid physical compliments…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.”

This is online dating; it’s understood that if a guy messages a girl, he finds her attractive. So not only is it icky when guys lay it on thick with the compliments, it’s also unnecessary.

So how do you get her attention instead?

DO Point Out Your Common Interests

Women are online dating because we’re looking for a connection! The best way to write a successful message is to point out to her what your connections, common interests, and shared values and hobbies are.

You’ll spend less time and get more replies when you focus your attention on messaging girls based on common interests rather than looks alone. When you find girls who are a great fit in a lot ways – lifestyle, values, interests – they’ll appreciate your effort to make a solid connection and will be more likely to respond to your first message.

How to do this: Think of a trait or interest you’d like to share in common with your future girlfriend. Let’s say you’re “active” and want someone to be with someone who values an active lifestyle, too. Instead of messaging any girls who say they are “active” or like being “outdoors” on their profiles – narrow it down. Message ONLY the girls who are into your specific interests, whether it’s surfing and oceanic preservation, or bow-hunting and camping.

Getting a message from you will be exciting for those girls. If you like the awesome stuff she likes, then she knows you must be awesome, too!

Focusing on common ground also introduces an easy topic that you’ll both have lots to say about, laying the foundation for a good conversation with lots of back-and-forths.

DON’T Ask, “How Are You?”

Same goes for other general questions like, “How’s your day/week/weekend going?” or “What’s up?”. Women online have come to recognize a general question like “How’s your weekend going?” as a warning sign that the guy didn’t actually read her profile. After all, if he had read it, wouldn’t he have noticed a number of things to ask her about?

We think, “If he can’t come up with one or two questions based on my profile and our mutual interests, then does he really care about starting a conversation with me? What would we even talk about on a date?!”

In addition to annoying women, asking “How are you?” doesn’t work in a first message because it’s either too broad or it doesn’t give girls a good reason to respond.

DO Ask a Specific Question

It’s better to lead with a long-game strategy for conversation and prove you read her profile at the same time. A girl’s profile gives you a long list of stuff to talk about. And people like talking about themselves! It’s flattering to know someone actually cares what we think about something and asks us to share our thoughts and opinions about it.

How to do this: Asking a question that begins with What/Why/How is perfect for writing the first message because those are questions without yes or no answers. Girls are forced to actually answer the question (if they choose to, anyway) with their own feelings and opinions.

Choose one of the reasons you’re messaging her in the first place – your common interests, shared values, or lifestyle choices – and ask her about it. It’s perfectly fine for this to be a quick, simple message: “Hey, that’s awesome you’re into camping. I am too. What’s your favorite spot around here?”

A message like this seems really natural – like you’re already involved in a conversation, and simply continuing it by asking another question. It’s also easy to answer this message quickly, which brings us to the final thing guys should not do in a first message…

DON’T Write A Book!

To write a great first message, you don’t have to spend 45 minutes highlighting everything you have in common, or explaining why you’re worth messaging back. In fact, you shouldn’t. And you definitely shouldn’t spend more than 10 minutes writing the first message.

Here’s why: Attraction is weird. Maybe you’re blond…and she only dates dark-haired guys. Maybe you have a lumberjack beard and she’s into the clean-shaven look. That’s on her. You don’t know what her “stuff” is, so don’t waste too much of your time up front writing a dissertation on why you’d be perfect together.

DO Make it Easy for Her to Reply

As a rule of thumb, ask one or two questions. Some guys make the mistake of firing off a long list of questions about a whole range of topics. This is overwhelming to girls and it’s time-consuming to answer 10 questions!

How to do this: Just read her profile, notice something you share in common or are curious about, and ask a question to start a conversation. Stick with 1 to 2 low-pressure questions that make it easy for us to respond quickly.

And don’t answer your own questions in the same message! When you ask the question and don’t include your own thoughts or answer in the same message, then her next logical step will be to ask you the same question back. This gives her an easy way to continue the conversation!

With your first message, your goal is to make us want to continue talking to you. When we see you’re the kind of guy who makes an effort in a first message but knows not to go overboard, we’ll be impressed. Your message won’t seem like it’s trying too hard and you’ll seem confident with good social skills – two attractive qualities!

Remember, the best first messages are not superficial – and the best questions to ask have “long-game.” That’s why it works so well to ask a girl about something you have in common. When you bring up a topic you both like, you’ll both have lots to say about it, which paves the way for a longer conversation.

When you skip the superficialities and go deeper from the get-go, you’ll stand out from your competition, flatter her, and skip right to a conversation that’s interesting for both of you. You’ll also learn more about each other. And the more you learn about each other, the surer she can be that she wants to meet you.