When I joined Match.com a few years ago, it was for one girl: Shadoe987. Sweet sweet Shadoe987. So lovely, so innocent, so eccentric in her spelling choices. I had taken a half-hearted swing at Match a few years previous, so they had me on their “bother to the point of certain insanity” email list. They sent a plea with a silly headline like “Look at All You’re Missing Out On!”, then a simple little picture of Shadoe987 and a few sentences about her and, well, it got me hook, line, and also sinker. “Yes, look at what I am missing out on!”, I said to my cat as I happily entered my credit card number. There was just something about Shadoe987, she was so…attractive, so wholesome, so forgiving. The kind of girl who would absolutely not judge you for being duped by yet another promotional email from a company you had no interest in. So I signed up for Match, fired off a carefully crafted message to Shadoe and a few other incomparable young women and waited for the responses to come rolling in. And you know what happened? Jack shit.
I never heard back from Shadoe987. Who knows where she is now…maybe living in Paris with her playful yet reliable husband who’s taught her more about wine than she ever imagined. Or maybe she died in a horrible farming accident. One of the two. But I will always remember her fondly for the lesson she taught me: Internet dating is a numbers game. Because after I didn’t hear back from Shadoe987, I emailed fifteen or so other women with a far less carefully crafted message and you know what? Five of them wrote back. Five! That’s a lot of people. Sure, ten totally ignored me, and the subsequent dates resulting from those five ladies were awful BUT…I got five dates. In a half hour of work. And suddenly my mission was born: create the formula for the perfect introductory email and send it to as many women as possible.
Look, if you wanna send every person you meet online a deliciously personal email that it took you twenty minutes to craft out of thin air – go for it. You’re a gentleman and a scholar. But you’re also an idiot. I’ll say it again: Internet dating is a numbers game. And they’re not small numbers, they’re really really big ones. It is more likely that the person you’re writing WILL NOT write you back, no matter how charming and eloquent you are. Believe me, Shadoe987 got every bit of my charm and eloquence and she didn’t even thank me before she was killed under that tractor. So in order to be an effective Internet dater, your first email should be something quick, delightful, and seemingly personal which then allows you to move on dot org. That something can be an easily forgotten two line message OR it can be the most genuine and well-intentioned form letter in the history of the written word.
Listen to what I’m going to tell you now – the recipient CAN NOT know that you are sending them a form letter. If they do, you’re done for. I’ve seen some mass messages 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: long, rambling love poem in broken English that gets uncomfortably sexual in the final stanza? Sadly, that was 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%. That’s right: 1 in 2, motherfuckers. It’s 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 game-winning touchdown in the big homecoming game, I will tell my son about the time I created the perfect email that let me meet only fantastic women. OK, a few fantastics and a lot of crazies. Now I pass on the formula to you, guard it with your lives.
Part 1: A Little About Them
This is where the magic happens. Read your future betrothed’s profile, find one thing about it you find funny or interesting, then write two sentences. One sentence is too little to make an 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
If you’re a cad, you can copy and paste this section every time. I preferred to create from scratch in each email, but my goal for the portion was the same…
In as funny a way as possible, tell them a little about yourself, accentuating your most date-able characteristics. If you’re tall, work it in casually. If you do something heart warming and awe-inducing like teaching deaf kids, subtly drop that hammer. If you’ve got a great rack, just come out and say it, guys will probably forgive you. Sell yourself in three sentences MAX.
Part 3: Say Goodbye
That’s it. Say goodbye and sign your name. Plain and simple.
Seems so simple, so obvious, but it’s not. You’d be amazed at how many people’s first emails are a complete disaster. They write one line, then hit send. Or, even worse, they write six paragraphs, cry a little bit, then apologize, then cry again. Nothing more awkward than a tear-stained email. The perfect intro message is so basic: talk about what you like about them, what you think they’ll like about you, and get the fuck out.
Is it dirty pool to use a formula on someone I genuinely want to go out on a date with? Yes, a bit. But all I’m really doing is simplifying the task for myself and you, should you chose to follow. I never lie and my goal is always completely genuine: find a good girl. But I’ll warn you, these powers must be used for good and not evil. Should you use my formula to go out with as many people as possible to just feed your ego or get laid, then it won’t work. You’ll cut corners in paragraph one, your reader will know, and you’ll be done. And the world will hate you and a horn will grow out of your head. But use this it to increase your chances of finding the person that’s right for you, and the Gods of love and Internet will smile down upon you.
Unless she happens to be named Shadoe987. If so, let me spoil the surprise – she ain’t writing back.
Good advice, right? For more, buy my new book Not a Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters.