Do’s and Don’ts to Write to Someone You Want to Date

Dialing the phone number of someone you are interested in seems like a big win, and it is. But this is also just the beginning. Once you get this number, you must decide what to actually write to that person, when, and how often. So no pressure, but your entire romantic future here can be defined by your first few text messages – especially now that digital communication is more common (and safer) than face-to-face communication . According to experts, here’s the best way to write a message to whoever you want to date.

Don’t wait X days to contact you

The first text is always the most difficult. How long are you waiting to text this cute gym guy? If you ask others, some people will tell you to wait “that many days” before you make contact, but this strategy is completely silly. Dating columnist Dr. Nerdlow told us that you should always touch the base sooner rather than later. If you don’t text them relatively soon (or sit around hoping they’ll text you first), a couple of things could happen: This cute guy in the gym will either forget about you and that he gave you his number at all, or he will assume that that you are not really interested. Nerdlove recommends writing to them on the same day or night in order to maintain emotional impulse and gain a foothold in their memory. Are you going to be “that cute gym girl” and not “some girl I think I was talking to the other day”?

What you say in your first text message is important (more on that later), but not nearly as important as your own communication. Don’t be afraid of the original text message. As online dating coach Patrick King explains , they’ve already given you their number because there is some mutual attraction in that, so you don’t have to worry so much about the possibility of rejection. However, when you send this first message, Regina Lynn, author of Sexual Revolution 2.0 , invites you to maintain the same etiquette as you would when you are on the phone. Don’t text him outside of regular hours, such as late at night or very early in the morning. Telling the cute guy in the gym when he tries to sleep will turn him into “hurray, she’s texting me!” moment in “Why is this girl waking me up?” Not the best first impression.

Never just write “Hello / Hello / Hello”

This was the most common piece of advice you’ll find: don’t write hello to anyone. In fact, if you browse through multiple online dating profiles, you are likely to find people who share the same advice. During the writing of Modern Romance, comedian Aziz Ansari and Dr. Eric Klinenberg , professor of sociology at New York University , organized hundreds of focus groups to understand the modern dating landscape. When they asked focus groups about their personal texts, they found that the participants unanimously agreed that the text “hello” was a bad idea.

As Ansari and Dr. Klinenberg explain, “hello” sounds like a completely harmless message, but this one word says a lot more than you might think. It’s corny, boring and lazy. It makes the recipient feel like they are not special or important, and makes you, as the sender, seem to be the same. No information is transmitted, nothing is asked from the recipient, and it’s incredibly easy to ignore. A good first text will explain who you are and somehow refer you back to your previous communication.

Focus your early texts on making plans

Once you’ve made contact, focus on making plans in your early text conversations. It’s thrilling when this sweet OkCupid girl seems to love texting you, but as Christine Hassler, author of 20-Something, 20-Everything suggests, too many pre-date texting drowns out any spark you might have on your real first date. :

It can make you think about what you say and do on a date instead of staying natural. It’s like your second date in terms of information, but you’re on your first date in terms of physical chemistry, which can make things awkward.

Emily Morse, host of the Sex With Emily podcast, calls this problem “premature flare-up” :

Since our entire world has become so instantaneous now, people can create entire characters using a variety of texts. … … By the time you meet your partner on a real date, you have built this whole image and fantasy in your head about who you think you are, and then they turn out to be completely different.

When making plans, be as straightforward as possible. During their focus groups, Ansari and Dr. Klinenberg also noticed a trend towards texting, which they called the “secretary problem,” where potential couples spend so much time trying to “punish each other” that they burn out and the spark goes out before like the first meeting. We asked Vanessa Marin, a licensed family therapist and former Lifehacker employee, how to avoid the “secretary problem,” and she replied that it was all about specifics:

Make concrete plans. It’s easy to give a vague commitment with a text message such as “Let’s talk Friday about what we’ll do this weekend.” If you are genuinely interested in this person, suggest a specific date and time for the date.

Don’t write “Do you want to do something this weekend?” Instead, say, “Hey, I’d like to take you out for dinner on Wednesday night.” Even better, you can make the callback a reference to a previous interaction – like a restaurant or the type of food you both talked about. Say something like, “Hey, how about dinner at that restaurant we talked about on Wednesday night?” About eight? ” As Patti Knows’ Chelsea Klischem advises , text messages should be the prelude to a conversation, not the conversation itself.

Keep calm and don’t be pushy

Don’t turn your early text messages into interviews. Not only will you use up all the conversations before you meet that “guy your friend set you up with,” you are likely to create unnecessary stress for yourself. King suggests that response-dependent texts make you feel anxious and insecure. Did they get my text? Why don’t they answer? Have I offended them somehow? Are they ignoring me? The fewer direct questions you send them, the fewer answers you will have.

Plus, just because the guy you’re in tune with doesn’t answer right away doesn’t mean he’ll never answer you. Nerdlove recommends always giving them enough time to respond and always avoiding intrusiveness:

If the two of you are no longer on a conversation – for example, have moved from online dating to texting, or since the moment you met – write sparingly. If the conversation starts, great; if not, don’t emphasize it. Some people don’t write much … If you’re already talking, follow the conversation. Don’t try to force him; if something goes wrong, let them. It is much easier to make someone lose interest by being assertive.

Good text conversation, according to Nerdlov, is like a tennis match. When you feed the first text, wait for it to return the ball and send one back:

If you mostly talk, or all you get in return are one or two words, then you are pushing too hard and they are losing interest. Type it back in (without drawing attention to it – “Well, I’m clearly bothering you” is annoying * and * passive-aggressive) and let them start again.

If he doesn’t, wait at least a day before sending another one. A good rule of thumb is to use one text for each answer per day. If your conversation seemed to have completely stopped and you are worried that the guy you were in tune with has lost interest (or forgot about your upcoming date), Nerdlove mentions that it is okay to gently reach out. Text like “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow” is not a bad idea. It helps reassure you that your date is still ahead and shows your interest, but not overly impatient or assertive.

Grammar and spelling are more important than you think

While the question of whether grammar and spelling is important in texts in general remains controversial , you are better off using correct English in your source texts with someone you would like to meet. Ansari and Dr. Klinenberg said poor grammar and spelling were considered disgusting in every interview they conducted with focus group participants. As a rule, interviewees explained that the sender looked unreasonable and lazy.

Avoid using abbreviated ” chats ” such as “l8r”, “2day”, “b4” and “plz”. This may be good for your friends, but it will make a bad impression on someone who is romantically interested in you. Chatspeak can also be easily misunderstood if the recipient does not know the abbreviations you are using. In general, stick to correctly spelled words and clear language – at least at first. Don’t text a girl from work: “Well, I have an application if I meet with two days.” Say something clear, such as, “I forgot I had an appointment this afternoon. I’m sorry, do you mind if we move the date until tomorrow? “

Punctuation also matters. Research shows that using periods at the end of all your messages can make them “too final” and disingenuous . It would be nice to stop using them in any text . At the same time, an exclamation mark was shown to make the messages seem more authentic. For example, there is a big difference between the “I’m fine” texts. and I’m fine! “when you get it. The first one looks almost mean and the other light and lighthearted. Also, if you ask a question, always use a question mark to avoid confusion.

Always watch your tone

As Nerdlove explains, tone is incredibly difficult to measure with text. Even if you use emojis and emoticons, you need to be careful about jokes, teasing, and even flirting. You may think you are being flirtatious and stupid, but they may think you are serious and are crossing the line. First, use the real name of the interlocutor, not the nicknames or nicknames of pets. Yes, you want the aforementioned cute gym guy to know that you like him, but just mentioning him as “handsome” or “gorgeous” can be misunderstood or worse, make them think you’ve forgotten them. name.

If you want to use humor, Nerdlove offers the safest way to recall something from a previous interaction. For the nice gym guy, make a joke about the gym (or working out), so how did you meet. However, you should be especially careful about using sarcasm in your writing. It rarely reads as well as it sounds in your head. However, if you really want to give it a try, research published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that using emoticons, emoticons, or ellipses can help. Text like “I can completely surpass you ;-)” reads much better than the simple phrase “I can completely surpass you”.

If you feel like you’ve misunderstood something, stop. Laurel House , author of Breaking the Rules: A Guide to Love Without Games , invites you to take another look at your text before submitting it and read it aloud to yourself. When it comes to sticking to a safe topic, a good rule of thumb is that if you don’t talk to them about something in person, you shouldn’t talk about it in the text. Finally, keep your selfies and other photos to yourself if they don’t approve of it. Never submit anything unwanted.

Don’t get hung up on response times

While the world of romantic texting is not a large area of ​​study (yet), there is some research that suggests not responding to every message immediately after receiving it. In writing The Modern Novel, Ansari and Dr. Klinenberg found that there is a general cultural agreement that you should never send back messages right away. According to their focus groups, sending an immediate text message can potentially make you seem overly agitated or desperate. Blowing text out deliberately might sound a little odd, but it might make you more desirable – at least in the short term. At the same time, Marin recommends not to think about it too much:

So many people spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out the exact number of hours or days to wait before answering. The fact is that we are all so attached to our phone that we know that this person saw our message. Of course, you can wait a few minutes so as not to sound too anxious, but just reply when you see the message.

It does n’t hurt to wait a little if you’re really worried about sounding too impatient, but don’t stick to some weird rule of “always wait twice as long as it takes to answer” or “always wait three minutes. answer. “If you want to answer, answer. If you focus your first text conversations on the right things (such as making plans and taking an interest in them carefully), you shouldn’t worry about sounding overly impatient anyway. goes well, after a few dates you will develop your own texting repertoire and it won’t make any difference.

Know when to stop texting

OkCupid girl hasn’t responded to your last message for two days. What are you doing? Dating expert Joanne In fact, on the YouTube channel Zoosk invites you to shoot them a text that does not ask for an answer in order to get a feel for everything. Submit something like “Just finished Emily in Paris on Netflix. This is insanely awful! “Or” On the way to the water park. So excited! »If you get any questions or other answers, they will probably still be interested. If not, maybe it’s time to move on. When it comes to how to throw a towel, Nerdlove shares his golden rule:

One unreturned text could be technical problems. Two unreturned messages may mean that you are out of luck or someone is busy. The three unreturned texts are the message. Move on.

Of course, if you are on the other end of the case, particularly polite at least something to say, especially if you have already met in person before. Marin explains that you should avoid ghosting or completely avoid any contact with another person:

Not a ghost. Text messages are so simple and non-confrontational that there really is no excuse for phantom messages. If the other person is half decent, treat him with respect and let him know that you are not interested. Simply put, say something like, “Thanks for the invitation, but I don’t feel enough connection.”

However, if they continue to bother you after you said you weren’t interested, ignore them or block their number .

This story was originally published in November 2016 and updated on November 5, 2020 to update context, update outdated links, and align content with current Lifehacker style.


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