Actually I don’t think you really have to write well. Just write like you have a brain. At least according to a survey reported here: Online Dating Advice: Exactly What To Say In A First Message.
My wife and I met on a dating site, Dating.dk, and I can only say that all the advice from the survey are good in my experience, and—mostly—quite self evident. Write well, be honest and true to yourself, yet be sure to have something that grabs attention early on, like an unusual greeting, and you’re good.
The survey was performed on over 0.5×106 first messages on OK Cupid. The average reply rate to a first message is 32%, and they looked for certain words and how they affected the reply rate. The advice:
- Be literate (r u serius?)
- Avoid physical compliments
- Use an unusual greeting
- Don’t try to take it outside (of the site’s internal messaging system)
- Bring up specific interests
- If you’re a guy, be self-effacing
- Consider becoming an atheist
Numbers 1 and 7 are very much to my liking.
The 6 worst words you can use are ‘ur’, ‘r’, ‘u’, ‘ya’, ‘cant’ and ‘hit’, netspeak. In other words, if you write like a fucking moron, you’ll be treated like it and ignored, and your reply rate will go down from 32% to under 10%. There is still some justice in the world.
Number 7 is a nobrainer, normal people are more attractive than superstitious people.
I just had so much fun reading that blog post, that I think you should read it too.
Addendum: about 2 months ago one of the Danish free newspapers ran an article on the frontpage that said that on one Danish dating site they found that 86% of all users asked not to be contacted by smokers.
I think it is OK when people suffer socially from their own stupidity, whether it’s deliberately bad writing or being a smoker. It seems so … fair.
And another funny thing: I tweeted about that blog post mentioning the phrase “online dating”, and promptly got no less than 30 spambot followers, all of them male and with 0 tweets to their credit. I also got one legitimate follower in the middle of that batch that I almost also blocked before I realized he was probably human. I wonder how many more followers I would have if I didn’t always block the spammers.