You've Got Mail!

Writing a Great Email Response To a Personal Ad


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Step 1: What to write?  

Email the people whose profiles interest you. If you hit if off with one of the people you've met, great. If not, don't despair; thousands of new profiles are posted every week on all of these matchmaking systems. Even if you have success with one, keep plugging along and corresponding with several people at once.   Until you are in a committed relationship with someone you should keep your options open.

Create a good first impression: When it comes to that first email, where you're tentatively putting your heart out on the line, many of us get the electronic equivalent of dry mouth -- or worse, say things better saved for down the line out of nervousness. How do you walk the line between being friendly and over-intimate? 

Experiment and find a style that works for you. Use the subject line like a headline, proofread, and be creative, positive and genuine. Avoid anything canned or trite.

Pick-up lines don't work, and you will rarely make a good first impression, or get a response using one. First emails should always be individually written and work best when conversational in style.  You can always tell when a member is sending a cut and paste of the same thing to everyone he/she writes.   It usually is about them and says nothing about you or what they liked about your ad.

Mention something about the recipient's profile. Was there something said that interested you? Ask a question or two and include some brief information about yourself.   What did you like about the profile?  What common interests do you have.

It's okay to flirt or tease a little, even during your first contact, but keep things light and friendly.  Do not write anything about sex, using any sexual words, or talk about how you are the perfect match or soul mate.   You are getting to know a total stranger.  Again, keep it if you were meeting a new colleague that is working for your company.

If your response doesn't convey the right message, you may not hear back from him/her. Remember that you probably aren't the only one that liked her/his ad. Your response may be one of many. Make what you have to say stand out. Give him/her something to write back about. Ask questions, offer to answer questions. This is your
chance to get to know more about each other. 

Things you should keep in mind as you answer ads:

Remember that your words may not be read by your new friend's eyes alone: He or she may open it at work, or in the presence of friends. ('Fess up: You've shown all YOUR friends love letters, haven't you?) So don't write anything you'd be embarrassed to be confronted with later, say when you meet his friends a few months from now.   Also, even in the largest of cities, people tend to run in a certain social circle.  Even in an anonymous ad or email, someone can tell who you are by a just a few of the things you write about yourself.

Test the water. If your relationship seems to be moving from friendship to something steamier, introduce your romantic exchanges gradually. Rather than a long outpouring of your every romantic inclination, try something brief like, "I found myself thinking about you today in a manner that somewhat surprised me. Want to know more?"

Always respond promptly to any emails or romantic advances you wish to encourage. It's tough to hang out there wondering whether your message hit or missed. If you don't get a reply, you might want to revise your response and try again. It may be that your first response didn't even make it to the person. That does happen. Or it may be that you just didn't express yourself properly. If your second attempt fails, shrug it off, and start browsing again. Above all don't take it personally. Keep trying, and keep learning. As with anything else, this takes practice. Practice expressing yourself, practice reading the true messages in the ads, and practice getting to know yourself. 

If you do get a reply, keep the conversation going, but don't get too long winded at first. Talk about what you are keeping active with. Ask about her/his activities. Start building the friendship. 

DON'T respond to any correspondence that is  lewd or crude or in any way makes you feel uncomfortable. Most matchmaking systems offer you the option of blocking unwanted mail from members that you don't want to receive.   If you have problems, write the system administrator about changing your screen name. DO report any obscene E-mails you receive directly to the system administrator. On a non-adult/alternative lifestyles system, obscenity, foul language, and abusiveness are usually spelled out as reasons for termination in the rules and regulations you agree to when you sign up. Provide the system administrator with the users screen name, copy and paste the emails that were sent to you.

Expectations: Don't get your hopes up too much. Quite often you can be sending messages back and forth on a regular basis, and then it will suddenly stop. It's all part of the game. Don't be overly disappointed, just start over
again. Relationships through the personals are the same as any other relationship. Things can be going great, and then you start drifting apart. It's all part of life, and isn't a reflection on you, it's just a normal part of life. E-mail does sometimes get lost.  Even though you may feel you've come to know that "special someone" through your online interaction, DO remember that the people you meet online are in fact strangers.

If you have been getting regular replies, and all of a sudden you don't get one, send another message.  The main thing is to respond to the ads you like. Don't let the fear of rejection stop you. You will start to feel more comfortable once you've had a little success. It just takes a little perseverance, and a willingness to learn. Remember that they placed the ads with the hope of getting responses. You aren't intruding on them. 

DON'T believe everything you read. It's very easy for someone to misguide you via their online correspondence. Remember that the person at the other end may not be who they say they are.

More about expectation and some words of wisdom.   Don't get caught up in the "romance" of online dating.  You don't know someone until you date them.  Have a positive attitude and think about finding a new friend, not a relationship.  Who knows, you may make a terrific new friend, have no sparks between you and want to hang out together as buddies or fix them up with another friend you know that would be a better match.  In fact, if several of your friends are meeting people on line, make a pact to introduce each other to really cool people you meet that just aren't your cup of tea.  

Get inspired: Writing someone you don't know is not easy.  If you fall into the romantically impaired category, don't give up. Online romantic correspondence is part talent and part inspiration." Here are her tips for translating what's in your heart into words on the screen:

Relax and get in the right mood for romance. Have a glass of wine, play some seductive music and dim the lights. As you loosen yourself up your words will come more easily.

Write about feelings, not facts: "I was delighted and a little excited to find your email waiting for me this morning."
"I noticed that you like sailing.   I have a 30 ft sailboat at XYZ marina.  I am always looking for a First Mate."   

Trading Photos:   Many people do not post photos because they live in a small town and everyone knows them, they are high profile in their community and other personal reasons.    When you get to the stage where you are trading emails, exchange photos from your secondary email account.   If the person is NOT willing to send you a photo or says they don't have one, move on to the next person.   You don't have time for people who play games.

Step 2.   Chat on line

Chatting on line first is highly recommended.   There are great services from ICQ, AOL instant messenger, MSN and Yahoo pager.   If you use one of the services currently with a long list of friends, you won't want to be stalked be a weirdo later.  Treat your main Instant Messaging system like you would your own phone number.  Do not give this one out.   Install one of the others on this list for people you don't know.    Don't chat in an online chat room.  You never know who might read personal information and you and the other person will be less likely to reveal important information about yourselves.

Chatting online first before talking on the phone is important for several reasons:

1.  You are in control.   If the person turns out to be a weirdo or a jerk, it is easier to cut off someone on line versus hanging up the phone on them.    It is as easy as turning off your computer or deleting them from your instant messaging system and writing their email account a half hour later and saying "My internet connection dropped me off....sorry.   I thought about our conversation and I don't think we are a match.  Good Luck to you."

2.  People let their guard down more in an online chat vs. talking on the phone.   You notice if someone is not answering questions.   In a phone conversation, people change the subject easily and you forget what you asked.  

3. You can cut and paste a record into Wordpad  what you talked about and save it for future reference. This enables you to go back and see if the person has changed their story from the time you talk to them on the phone or meet them in person.

4. Ask about everything! Marriages, divorce, children, education, career choices, hobbies, likes and dislikes.

5. Chat at least once or twice before you talk on the phone.

Step 3: First Phone Call

Wow, there is enough common interests and you like what you see.   After you have emailed back and forth for a few weeks and chatted on line a few times, you will want to talk on the phone.    It is recommended that the man give the lady his phone number.  There are too many stories about people being stalked by phone.   Dial *67 before you place the call.  

 Once you have made it past a few phone calls and a first meeting in person and have established that this person is decent and you feel safe, give your phone number to the man.  Set up at least one or two phone conversations -- more, perhaps, if you two aren't in the same city. Use these talks as a way to get to know the person better and to judge whether you want to take the relationship to the next step. 

On the positive side, treat your first phone contact as an actual date, a way to get to know the person better and see whether the online spark translates into the offline world.  Set up a time when the two of you will each be home and alone.  Make sure to allow at least an hour to chat on the phone.  If you are talking to 3 or 4 online pals, take notes so you don't get things mixed up.

Now you are ready to move on to Meeting 101!

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