“Righting Online Emails” – Love Matters, May 2016

During our last Love Matters Hot Line call, the subject of writing online emails provided an active topic for discussion, and one we think anyone looking for love or who knows someone looking for love has questions and opinions. With only a limited time on the call, we decided to pursue this topic with our readers.

A frequent question, particularly for women, is who should write first. Many women have the view that “If he wants to meet me, it is up to him to make the first move.” That approach can cost you half of the men who might be of interest to you. It is essential for women to be proactive and therefore not hesitate to send a first email, individually crafted and sent to the few men that are on your favorites list. This method will put you in a position to be reaching out to the men you want to meet, rather than sitting and waiting for them to contact you. With the right kind of email, you significantly increase the chances of attracting the attention of the men with whom you want to connect. For the purposes of   this advice, we are writing about women’s emails to men, but the same advice holds true for guys.

It’s about differentiating yourself, not writing a generic and “lazy email.” The goal of your first email is not to charm someone, to compliment him, or to convince him you have so much in common that he has to write back. The goal is to make the person smile.

The most common mistake we see in emails is the “me, too” error.  “You like the beach? Me, too. We should meet and discuss our favorites.” Or, “You like Broadway shows? Me, too. Just saw Hamilton, it was great. How about you?” The way we get strangers comfortable with us is to disarm them and with laughter and interesting   conversation.

The problem with the “me, too” email is that it does not distinguish you from every other email out there. It is a weak invitation to dialogue and not interesting to most men. Put yourself in the position of a man receiving your email. If you wouldn’t be interested in that email, why should he be? Try thinking about what it is going to be like to read your email, rather than what you want to say.

The best approach to writing your first email is to begin by being a very careful reader of his profile. Find something in the profile, in the screen name, or some of the other categories to respond to. Rather than, “Hello Jim, What a great profile!” (which can be viewed as gratuitous flattery) use something Jim told you about himself and say something interesting, clever or opinionated about it.  “Hello, Jim. I see you are a Red Sox fan. I was, too, until they traded all the    good players to the Yankees who now hit home runs against us.” This kind of response will make Jim smile (a critical feature of a good email) and invite him to email back. It will let Jim know that you are a careful reader and are confident and smart, in contrast to the “me, too,” kind of person who is boring and not engaging.

Once you give up the “me, too” paradigm and the lists of things and places and activities you appear to have in common that generate no responses, you may actually find yourself beginning to write a more authentic email.  If you are thinking you are not a good writer it’s because you think writing is different from talking. The best writing is a conversation. Write the way you talk. You wouldn’t walk up to someone at a cocktail party and say, “Hi, my name is Carolyn and I like the way you look and wanted to let you know that I like to   hike, walk on the beach, go to the theatre, and watch the Red Sox. Give me a call.”

What you might say is, “Hi, my name is Carolyn, and I can’t believe that the   Red Sox threw away a six-run lead last night. When are we going to get some good pitching?” Or if you don’t follow the Red Sox, perhaps you could say that Springtime is your favorite season in New England. “I can’t believe how hardy the frail daffodils, tulips, and crocuses are to fight their way to the top and add a burst of color to a drab end of winter.”

Try starting your email right in the subject header with something catchy that references something in his profile. Do a quick greeting, “Hi” or “Hello,” and you absolutely want to sign your initial email with your name, even if it’s just your first initial or username. Also, forget weak phrases like “Please email me if you’re interested,” or “I hope to hear from you.”

Keep your first email light and chatty and short. A couple of sentences. This is not the time for heavy issues or about what you are looking for in a mate. Your email needs to be confident and a bit flirty.  Our advice is to start by writing    three people from whom you don’t care if you get a response or not. After a few volleys back and forth, you will sharpen your skills, and try the next emails with guys who look much more like the guys you want to meet.

If you embrace the belief that the answer to whatever you write is always going to be YES. You ARE pretty. You ARE smart. You ARE funny. He WANTS to hear from you, then you won’t need to sell yourself, explain why you’re great, explain what you have in common, and that you are hoping for a reply. You just have to say something funny, or light, that stimulates conversation. The key to finding The One online is confidence.