Writing • Editing • Solutions

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Online Dating? Don’t Make Email Mistakes

Back in the dark ages — say 15 or 20 years ago — people met their romantic matches without benefit of tweets, texts, or dating profiles. In this B.C. (“Before Computers”) era, one’s email-writing skills didn’t matter because all you had to do was lock eyes across a crowded room and sparks would fly. (Or that’s what happened in those great old movies.)

Thanks to technology (and online dating sites), meeting potential matches today is a lot more efficient. But it also runs the risk of being more impersonal. And communicating becomes even more important because there’s no opportunity to woo with a wink or flirt with a smile. Your potential love interests can’t see your beautiful eyes or great bod.

You’ll have to win them over with words.

That’s why crafting enticing e-mails and texts becomes ultra-important. Make a mistake, and you may blow your chances. Do it right, and you may be able to take down that profile.

When it comes to those early, critical emails with a potential match, here’s what works and what doesn’t.


You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t divulge personal information such as your last name, your home address, or where you work until you’ve built a solid rapport. “This person may seem like Prince or Princess Charming, but for all you know, your pal could be romancing you from a jail cell,” say Lisa Daily, author of a dating blog and the book Stop Getting Dumped!


Better to leave ’em wanting to know more than to bore them with your life story right off the bat. “Stick to the high points — no more than three paragraphs,” Daily suggests.


Be honest, and you’ll be more likely to meet someone who likes you just the way you are. If you shave off years or pounds, it will be obvious the very first time you meet in person — and your lying about it will be a real turnoff. Says Melanie, a Boston publicist, “One guy sent me a picture, but when we met, it was clear that the photo was of someone else. The fact that he sent me a bogus picture was so incredibly lame that I decided never to talk to him again.”


Don’t send the same generic “cover letter” to every possible match. “Anyone can spot a cut’n‘paste e-mail instantly,” says Melanie. “They all read something like this: ‘Hi, my name is Bob. I am in management consulting and would like to meet some friends. I read your profile. You sound like a fun person to get to know.’ It’s clear that the person emails the identical message to a bunch of girls.”


In real life, you wouldn’t introduce yourself and immediately start unzipping the other person’s jeans. Neither should you send suggestive emails or texts. “One guy sent me an email saying that he wanted to lay his head on my soft breast,” says Roxanne. “I never wrote him back, but I did forward his message to all of my friends to get a good laugh.”


Send an email. Then wait for a response before writing again. Rinse and repeat. Kim, a Charlotte, North Carolina writer, remembers one guy who wrote her ten or more times a day. “He seemed like a catch until he began swamping me with emails and texts. He was so intense he scared me,” she says.


You can’t win ’em all. If someone doesn’t respond to you or indicates lack of interest, just move on. Don’t get angry, don’t beg; don’t try to change the person’s mind. Elizabeth, a Beverly Hills dental hygienist, still fumes when she remembers the guy who got so upset when she wouldn’t go out with him that he wrote, “You poor fool. I guess you have no confidence and are intimidated by me.”


If the two of you connect online, take it to the next level. Exchange phone numbers (and not just for texting); have a real conversation; plan to meet in person. “Isn’t that why we’re on [a dating site] in the first place?” asks Sherry, a Massachusetts corporate communications executive.

What do you think? What’s your experience with online dating correspondence? (Any funny stories?) Your biggest turnoffs? (And if you want to craft an enticing online profile, I can help.)

Write on — by Maryann Hammersyour solution for all writing and editing needs

2 comments on “Online Dating? Don’t Make Email Mistakes

  1. Lynn Payne
    June 20, 2012

    I have been doing this ‘online dating’ for a few weeks now. I have met a couple people who I’m sure will remain friends. My biggest pet peeve about the emails from these guys is that they do not seem to remember even the simplest rules of basic English.. No caps, no punctuation – just one long run on sentence. Here’s one that is a response to a conversation we were having about a job he would be doing at a prison (he installs some kind of pump):

    “hi no womens prison up hear theirs a minamun mens and a mens max level 5 up hear ya your rihgt its hard to get paid i know its hot their its been warm hear well stay cool and take care of your self have a great day larry”

    To me, this is disrespectful. Take the time to add a period once in awhile. For the most part it’s hard to even know what he’s talking about. Although this one is worse than most, it’s not at all unusual.

  2. Maryann Hammers
    June 20, 2012

    Wow! That would be almost funny if it weren’t so sad. I’d worry that he’d be just as inarticulate in person. Or maybe he’s texting in the dark. But this is a great example of how our writing really reflects us — for good or bad.

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