Words With Results: OkCupid Gives Us First-Contact Facts

youvegotmail In the past, we’ve written about writing a good first contact email.  Most of that was simply common sense, but now, thanks to a study by OkCupid, we actually have data to support our claims!

You can read the article in full, along with several colorful and handy charts, but I noticed that most of their points – and really, a good first contact email in general – can be summed up in two concepts: personality and low-pressure.

Personality is the something that sets you apart from the others.  Since the medium you’re using is email, a certain amount of letter-writing skills are necessary to let you shine through.

  • Number one on the OkCupid list is “be literate.”  Quite simply, if someone’s wondering if you made a typo or if you simply didn’t know how to spell a word, they’re not paying attention to the rest of your message.  Your personality is totally lost, and you’re just that person that can’t spell.
  • Conversely, your choice of slang can say something negative about your personality.  Imagine, if you will, a girl saying the word “what.”  Now imagine a girl saying “wut.”   Did you imagine the same girl?  Do you feel the same about both of them?  In short, you don’t want to be that second girl, and you don’t want your words to get in the way of your message.
  • Number three on the list is “Use an unusual greeting.” Now, I’d be interested to see whether a scan of subject line greetings would yield the same results – I imagine it would.   Saying “hi” or “hello” is the most generic form of greeting, and contributes to an image that is forgettable.  Saying something more flippant might be cheesy, but it’s more memorable.  It does contribute to the larger picture you’re creating, though, so choose your “howdy” with care.
  • Number 5, “Bring up specific interests,” whether your own or the other person’s, shows that either your personalities are compatible, or that you’re interested in hers.   Saying something specific about her profile shows that your email is not a cut-and-paste one, and makes it less generic.   It basically conveys respect, and makes you stand out, all at the same time.
  • Number 7, “Consider becoming an atheist,” is just another way to say the same thing as Number 5.  I think they get positive responses to this because in larger society atheists aren’t necessarily open and commonplace, and having the same beliefs is obviously something you have in common right away.  And if the two of you care enough about your beliefs to bring them up on your profiles, you might place similar importance on them.   This is why there are whole dating sites for people of similar beliefs – you’re theoretically starting out with a common interest.

The other key to a good first contact email is to avoid placing pressure on the reader.  People seem to enter online dating with so many expectations; you don’t want to overwhelm someone with your life story or a marriage proposal.   Keeping the first email short and sweet, and pressure-free, is the way to go.

  • Number 2 on the list is “Avoid physical compliments.” This is probably the biggest key to being low-pressure.  A string of compliments is too easy to be misinterpreted – it could come off as slimy, or creepy, or obsessive.  It can imply that there’s an expectation of something more in the future.  It’s pretty much the opposite of the “starting out as friends” concept, so it implies that you’re in it for a quick thrill, not a real relationship.
  • Number 4 is “Don’t try to take it outside.” Telling someone you want to move to chat or some other form of communication after one email is basically moving too fast.  If you want to ensure that everyone’s comfortable, it’s best to err on the side of caution in the pacing department.  On the other hand, having your contact information in the signature line of your email is sort of like having a business card available – you’re not forcing your information on anyone or placing any expectations, but they know where to find you when they’re ready.
  • Number 6 states that “if you’re a guy, be self-effacing.” Personally, I don’t actually agree with this one, but I think what girls are responding to is the obvious lack of sexual pressure.  I think if you follow all of our other tips, you won’t need to resort to groveling to ensure that you’re non-threatening.  And by the way, a guy who’s whining and pleading for a date can be just as creepy as a pervy roid-rager.  I’d avoid this one altogether.

This is all just my speculation and recommendation; however, whatever the reason, the OkCupid article demonstrates what words work and fail.  It’s worth checking out, if only to make sure some of the major red flags aren’t in your first-contact vocabulary.

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