One Guy’s Foolproof Formula for Crafting the Perfect First Message

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This post is an excerpt from Not a Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters by Brian Donovan.

In order to be an effective Internet dater, your first email should be something quick, chipper, and seemingly personal. Your note can be an average, forgettable two line message OR it can be the most genuine and well intentioned form letter in the history of the written word. I recommend the latter.

Listen to what I’m going to tell you now: the recipient CANNOT know that you are sending them a form letter. If they do, you’re done for. I’ve seen some mass emails that men have sent, thinking they’re carefully disguised, and it’s enough to make you weep. Long paragraph that’s just about them? Form letter. Vague platitudes about how “pretty and cool” the lady seems? Form letter. Random jokes about how crazy the world of Internet dating is? Form letter. And last but not least: epic, rambling love poem in broken English that gets uncomfortably sexual in the final stanza? Sadly, that’s also a form letter. How do you avoid making your email look like a form letter? By not making it a form letter at all.

A form letter is repeated word for word to each recipient. What I have instead is an equation, and it is perhaps my greatest Internet dating secret. The perfect introductory email has taken me years of trial and error to develop, and got so good that at one point my response rate was up to 50%. My intro email is my best friend, and I know every step of it by heart. If I ever get sent to some awful prison in a Midnight Express-type situation, my introductory email is what I will recite in my head to keep myself sane. Some men put their children on their knee and tell them about the time they scored the winning touchdown in the big homecoming game–I will tell my son about the time I created the perfect email that let me meet fantastic women. OK, a few fantastics and a lot of crazies. Now I pass on the formula to you. Guard it with your life.

Part 1: A Little About Them

This is where the magic happens. Read your future betrothed’s profile, find one thing that strikes you as funny or interesting, then write two sentences. One sentence is too brief to make a good impression; three sentences is desperate hand-wringing; two sentences is just right. This is real, this is genuine, this must be original for each person you write. See, not a form letter!

Part 2: A Little About You

OK. I lied. It’s kind of a form letter. Part 2 can be the same every time. But your goal in this section is simple: in as funny a way as possible, tell them a little about yourself, accentuating your most dateable characteristics. If you’re tall, work it in casually. If you do something heart warming and awe-inducing like teaching deaf kids (but not just for the money), subtly drop that hammer.

Now, if you’d like to write this section out longhand every time to feel better about yourself, feel free. But I copy and paste, because it’s always the same, and because my schedule is packed with tons of important business meetings. (Note: I consider watching Gilmore Girls to be an important business meeting.)

Part 3: Say Goodbye

That’s it. Say goodbye and sign your name. Plain and simple. Seems so obvious, but it’s not. You’d be amazed at how many first emails are a complete disaster. People write “Hey, what’s up, baby?!” then hit send. Or, even worse, they write six paragraphs, say they know they’re going on too long, go on even longer, then apologize awkwardly and probably start crying. The perfect intro message is basic: highlight what you like about them, what you think they’ll like about you, and get the fuck out.

I’ll warn you, these powers must be used for good. Should you turn evil and use this formula just to get laid, then I will find you and I will kill you. I mean, I won’t, because those Gilmore Girls appointments are really piling up, but seriously, don’t. It’s uncouth. Use the perfect email formula to only find the person that’s right for you, and both I and the Gods of Love and Internet will smile down upon you.