Sending the Perfect First Message in Online Dating

Fact Checked by: Grady Shumway, LCSW

You found them! You’ve found the perfect man or woman (at least based on their profile), and you’re ready to get in touch with them and start the conversation. But, what do you write? What do you say? How do you show interest without sounding like a weirdo? Knowing what to say when you send the first online dating message can seem tough.

Close up of a Handsome Black Man Sending the Perfect First Online Dating Message

But, we’re here to help! Not all heroes wear capes, right? In this guide, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know to craft the perfect first message that is going to get your message across clearly and help you to get the most responses from that guy or girl you’re interested in.

Before We Go Any Further

Before we talk about the specifics of sending that perfect first message, we need to make sure you’ve got something else in check. We’re talking about your online dating profile. You could send the most perfect first message to your love interest, but if you’re dating profile is incomplete, or not up to par, they’re going to just delete your message. You see, the first thing that most people do after they receive a message is not respond. They look at your profile. THEN if they like what they see, they’ll respond to your message.

So, before you even start tackling that first message, you need to make sure that your online dating profile is all squared away. Not sure what to do? Don’t worry, we got you covered there as well. Our guide to how to write the perfect online dating profile will show you everything you need to know to make sure you’re all squared away.  Once you’re all set, we can start worrying about how to craft that perfect first message.

The Simple Solution of What to Say In Your First Message

There are a million ways to skin a cat…That’s a cheesy phrase that some people say (mostly people in the military) that just means there are a lot of different methods that can work and accomplish the same job. Yes, there are a ton of different first messages that you can send that will work great, but we want to give you a foolproof formula to get it done right.

Here’s the formula:

Greeting + Thing that shows you read their profile + Something About You + Open ended question = Perfect first dating message

Here’s an example and then we will break it down piece by piece.

Hey! I love that you like to volunteer with dogs. I have a terrier named Rocket who is my best friend. Have you always had dogs?

That is a PERFECT first message. It shows that you’re friendly, actually read through their profile, shares a little bit about yourself, and gives them an easy way to continue the conversation. Let’s break this down piece by piece.

The Greeting

This is the easy part! All you have to do is say hi. We do recommend that you stick with ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ and don’t say ‘Sup’ or ‘Yo wud up mama’ or something like that. You can use an exclamation point if you’d like, but it’s not necessary. We like it because it leads off with some nice energy and shows you’re a lively person. It takes it away from seeming like a business-type email and makes it a bit more playful.

Thing That Shows You Read Their Profile

This is a MUST. One of the most annoying things that turns people off with online dating is when you message them without reading their profile. It makes them feel like you don’t care enough to take the time to read what they’ve prepared or you’re just out sending mass messages which if you’ve read our blog on first message mistakes, you know is a huge no-no.

Take the time to read their profile and make sure they are someone you are interested in. We’ve even seen some people put things in their profile that they ask you to say to prove you read it. For example, “Put the word orange in your subject message to let me know you read my profile.” If you don’t do this, you’re getting ignored even if you have the best first dating message ever.

Look for something that you think is cool or that you like or have in common.

“I see you’re into _______.”

“I liked your picture at ________.”

“I think it’s awesome that you are involved with _______.”

“I’ve never met a ________ before.”

These are just a few examples, but you’re probably getting the idea. It’s okay to compliment slightly here, but don’t go overboard or you may start to seem desperate. Something like “OMG I love that you volunteer with dogs. I always knew my future wife would be into dogs,” is probably a little over the top.

Also, try and stay away from complimenting them physically. This goes for men and women. Unless you’re just looking for a fling, this is not the right foot you want to start your dating journey on. Let them know you care more than just about how they look.

Something About You

Follow this up with something about you that is interesting. It’s best if it relates to the thing that you mentioned in their profile. “Hey! I see that you like dogs. I love rocket ships…” just doesn’t have the same effect. Try your best to find some commonalities between you two and use that to your advantage.

Remember, this is not the time to brag because you will come across pretty terribly. Even if you’re bragging jokingly, remember that might not translate well to written text and they might still think you’re full of yourself. Just tell them something interesting that relates to what you saw that you liked about them.

Open-Ended Question

This part is a lot more important than it might seem. Some people aren’t the best at conversation, especially with complete strangers. So, it’s nice if you give them an easy way to respond and keep the conversation going. This is why we like to ask questions that are open-ended and easy to respond to.

Open-ended means that the answer is not easily a one-word answer. Yes, in our first example you could technically answer yes or no to whether you had dogs forever, but most people are going to give you a lot more than that. If you ask them a question like what is your favorite color or what is your favorite food, it doesn’t really open up the conversation. They’ll usually just answer the question and then it’s awkward for you to figure out how to respond.

You: Hey! I love that you like to volunteer with dogs. I have a terrier named Rocket who is my best friend. What’s your favorite kind of dog?

Them: Thanks. Shitzus, u?

You: Terriers.


This is why you want to avoid questions like this. You don’t need to ask them to tell you their whole life story, but at least make things easy for them to respond. On that note, don’t ask complicated or super deep questions. Here’s a TERRIBLE example:

Hey! I love that you like to volunteer with dogs. I have a terrier named Rocket who is my best friend. What are your thoughts on kill shelters for dogs?

While you may or may not care about the answer to this question, this is way too heavy of a topic to lead off with. Keep things light, and there will always be time to talk about deeper topics like this later…much later.

A Wrap-Up

So, remember, this is the formula:

Greeting + Thing that shows you read their profile + Something About You + Open ended question = Perfect first dating message

Keep it simple and let the conversation happen. You’ll be surprised at the results that you’ll get if follow this to a T.

What Not to Do In The First Message

We led off talking about what you should do in your first message to a potential date, but now we need to cover something more important – what NOT to do or say in your first message in online dating. Doing any of these things is most certainly going to get your message deleted with no response even from someone who may have been into you had you done things the right way.

Don’t Go Overboard With Compliments

It’s cool to give a slight compliment on something other than their physical appearance in a first message. But, anything other than that is going to make you seem desperate or creepy. They’ll already know you’re attracted to them based on the fact that you are messaging them. Keep the compliments to a minimum; there will be plenty of time for that later. The goal here is to get a conversation started and while you think compliments are going to help, you are incorrect.

Avoid Touchy Subjects

You want to keep things light at the beginning of a conversation or potential relationship. There is no value in dropping anything deep or getting into touchy subjects right off the bat. Some of you may think it makes you look deep, cultured, or worldly, but again, you are incorrect. Even if they put something deep in their profile, save it for later in the conversation. Stick to things that you would feel comfortable talking to a stranger about in public. If that doesn’t limit the list at all, use your brain because we’re confident you know what we’re talking about. We’re just trying to help you succeed.

Don’t Send a Novel

It can be soooooooo tempting to send a super-long message to someone especially when you think they’re incredible based on their dating profile. But, it’s a little weird and sets a standard that they may not be ready to reciprocate. Look, we think it’s awesome that you’re willing to take the time to write out an intensely long and detailed message to someone you’ve never met.

But, it’s not going to have the results you expect. It’s going to feel weird why someone is committing so much time and resources to someone they’ve never even spoken to. It might sound poetic to you, but it’s not.

Also, it might make the other person feel like they have to respond with just as long of a message which they may not have the time to do. What will they do instead? Probably just delete your message or just let it sit there in their inbox for eternity until they “have the time to respond” which will be never.

Stick to the formula we gave you for the perfect first message, or at least keep it under a couple sentences if you choose to go it alone.

Don’t Send a D*ck Pic

Happy to report that we STILL have to put this. Actually, we’re not happy about it. While you might think this is a great way to get the girl you’re interested in talking to to talk to you, you are wrong. It’s classless and trashy to send something like this unsolicited. If they ask for it later down the line, we’re not here to judge you. But, sending this in the first message is ridiculous and really should count as sexual harassment if you ask us. If you walked up and just showed your junk to someone in public, you would be arrested. It would be nice if it were the same on the internet.

Keep it in your pants until the time is right.

The Conclusion

Don’t overthink the first message to someone you’re interested in. Follow our simple formula, and you’ll be getting responses in no time. Remember, read their profile and make sure you don’t do any of the no-no’s we mentioned. You will have a lot of luck, and you won’t have to sit there for hours anymore staring at the screen trying to figure out what to write.

Greeting + Thing that shows you read their profile + Something About You + Open ended question = Perfect first dating message

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.