It's not a real relationship unless you actually meet in person. Credit: Digital Vision It's not a real relationship unless you actually meet in person.
Credit: Digital Vision

It’s a problem that anyone who has ever used an online dating site has faced at one point or another: what to write in that all-important first message.

“There are three key ingredients to a good message,” says Erika Ettin, a dating coach and the author of the new book “Love at First Site.” Here’s how Ettin breaks it down:

1)Talk about somethingin his or her profile.


2) Say how that relatesto you.

3) Always end witha question.

“Obviously humor always helps too,” she adds.

Ettin offers these suggestions for singles looking for love online.

You have to go on an actual date

“The fewer the messages the better,” says Ettin. “I suggest only have one email back and forth before suggesting to meet.” Ettin adds that she usually recommends that the person who sends the original email be the one who asks the other out.

A sample opening message

Let’s say you find a profile in which the user mentions that they play tennis. Ettin suggests sending this message:

“Hi! I came across your profile and I thought it was interesting — especially the part where you mention that you play tennis. I used to play too, but it’s been a while. Do you play competitively?” A friendly question is the perfect way to spark a conversation.

Don’t text

“I would not recommend texting before you meet in person,” says Ettin. “It gives you a false sense of intimacy, which creates obstacles to your first date.”

Be realistic

Ettin says she sees too many people who go for weeks or months exchanging messages before going on a real date. “I call it having an e-lationship versus having a relationship,” Ettin explains.

If you are ever in a situation where you feel like you are chatting endlessly with no end in sight, Ettin says that being blunt is appropriate. “I would say, ‘I am really enjoying these emails, why don’t we get coffee?’”

The next step is to suggest two possible days for a date.

Brush your shoulders off

Because online dating can be stressful and people can be flaky, Ettin says it’s important for daters to not get too upset or anxious when messages go unanswered. “The thing I used to tell myself was that we don’t know why people don’t answer,” Ettin points out. “You can’t take it personally.”

It's a numbers game

Because of the way online dating works, the best thing anyone can do is message as many people as possible. “I would err on the side of emailing more people,” she advises. “Getting six out of 20 responses is better than just getting three out of 10.”

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

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