You’ve joined an online dating site or app during the pandemic… since it’s now pretty much the only way to meet new people. That’s a great first step! But, as you’ve heard time and time again (probably from yours truly), it’s not enough to simply sign up; you have to be proactive.

Being proactive means searching for people, or swiping, and sending a message, and I recommend that both men and women make the first move.

Many women think that initiating contact might make them “lose the upper hand” at the get-go or seem less feminine. That couldn’t be more wrong. We need to go for what we want in life, and it starts here. If you don’t send the first message, that perfect match you’ve noticed may never find you. Plus, who wouldn’t be flattered? (And on Bumble, women have to make the first move anyway!)

As for what to include in the message on a “traditional” dating site, like or eHarmony (one where you can log in on either the computer or the app, and the profiles are somewhat longer), it’s actually fairly simple:

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1. Something about the other person’s profile that caught your attention;

2. Something about you and how it relates to that person; and

3. A question to end the message.

A few sentences are more than enough to get the ball rolling. It’s also very clear when people copy and paste the same message from person to person. That’s a surefire way not to get responses. Finally, humor and proper grammar go a long way.

Now that we know the rules, let’s look at a couple sample messages:

First of all, congrats on finishing your MBA. I’m sure you’re happy not to have to study on weekends anymore, huh? Now, about that tennis match … we obviously need to stoke that friendly rivalry. — David

I can’t disagree with you — love absolutely comes from the stomach. Also, since it looks like you’re into sushi as much as I am, have you ever ordered from Tori Sushi? Thank me later.



What makes these messages work? David initiated his message with a double-whammy — he both complimented the other person and alluded to something he had read in the profile. Notice that the compliment is not about the other person’s looks but rather about an accomplishment — this is a much better choice.

Sophie’s message started with a cute, funny quip and made a recommendation based off of what the other person had mentioned in his own profile about liking sushi.

Remember that no one can guarantee a response, but you can certainly set yourself up with the greatest chance of success.

Let’s briefly touch on the dating apps (Tinder, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, etc.) as well. On these, you use in-app texting to communicate with someone. Short, sweet, and original is the name of the game here. If someone provides “message bait,” or something to latch onto to write about, that makes your job a lot easier. If not, you have to be a bit more creative. Anything is better than “Hey,” “How’s it going?” or now “How are you holding up in the pandemic?” Can you say downer? Even asking, “You seem like a night owl. Am I right?” will garner a better response.

Notice that, similar to the messages you would send on a traditional dating site, each conversation starter included a question or prompt. Not only do questions keep the conversation going, but they also indicate interest. Potential partners want to know that you are curious to learn more about them and not just interested in extolling your own virtues and accomplishments.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. ©2020 Erika Ettin Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.