Are You An “Instant Delete?”

Have you sent tons of introductory emails but gotten no replies? If so, you may be an “instant delete.” We’ll help you get out of the trash folder and into real, successful communication with your matches.

By Bob Strauss

f you’ve been doing the online dating thing for a while, you’ve received your share of uninspired, insipid and/or asinine letters that linger in your inbox like a bad cold for a few weeks until you eliminate them all at once (I call this phenomenon “flee-mail”). And sometimes, just when you’re feeling pretty good about yourself and your romantic prospects, you receive a missive in which
If you must be aggressively superficial, at least be specific.
the tone, spelling, or leering intent of the sender makes you not only want to delete it immediately, it makes you want to wipe your hard drive, take a long shower, change your name and move to a different city.

The trouble is that it’s easy enough to know what to do when you get one of these emails — but what if you’re the unsuspecting slob who sent it in the first place? After all, it’s not as if generates an automatic “I’m sorry, but the person you tried to contact has given up all earthly possessions and relocated to Malawi” reply when you’ve been unceremoniously deleted. What’s a well-meaning but misguided singleton supposed to do?

Well, a good first step is not winding up in that “instant delete” queue in the first place. Here are some helpful tips:

Work on your lead
Newspaper editors spend years honing their pithy, economical (yet oddly catchy) headline styles, which draw readers deeper into the story without giving any inadvertent offense. Email subject lines like “Hey, cutie!” “Loved your profile!” or “Let’s get busy!” will be instantly deep-sixed by any self-respecting recipient. If you must be aggressively superficial, at least be specific: “Hey, you [insert color here]-eyed hottie!” or “Let’s get drinks tomorrow, [insert favorite bar here], 8 p.m.!” This approach should reduce your deletion rate by, oh, at least five percent.

Don’t share too much too fast
According to dating coach Laurie Davis, any mention of an ex in your introductory letter is a one-way ticket into the trash folder. “Don’t even hint at your past relationship status by saying things like ‘An ex once said I’m...’ or ‘I’m recently out of a relationship and looking for something casual’ or ‘My last relationship was X months ago,’” warns Davis. You’ll have plenty of time to unburden yourself if you strike up a correspondence, and considering your overall communication skills, you’ve probably loaded all that romantic baggage into your profile, anyway.

Post a photo
Granted, there are some epistolary geniuses out there (I like to think I’m one of them) who can coax anyone into responding to their opening emails without providing any indication of what they actually look like. Sadly, though, not having any photos posted with your profile won’t make the object of your desire picture a secretive, brilliant,
I do want someone who can communicate reasonably well.
brooding MacArthur fellow or mysterious model; it’s usually something a bit less… complimentary. In the vast majority of cases, no photo + any of the other flaws listed here = instant delete status.

Tone down the emotion
Remember, you’re not writing to the IRS to dispute a tax bill; you’re writing to a perfectly nice (and perfectly unwary) stranger to hopefully initiate some kind of relationship. Self-pitying repartee like “I don’t know why I keep doing this, all my emails seem to vanish into a black hole” will cause yours to, well, vanish. As a general rule, anger, jealousy, despair and vindictiveness are not constructive emotions to share in an introductory email, on a first date, or even after you’ve gotten comfortable with the other person.

Check for typos before hitting Send
Says David S., a Washington-area social worker: “If there are typos, misspellings or poor grammar, I usually don’t make it to the end of a person’s email. I don’t need to be with an award-winning novelist, but I do want someone who can communicate reasonably well.” The trick (for the recipient, that is) is to not set the bar unreasonably high; illegible wording strung together with a litany of Internet acronyms is probably an actionable offense, but if you find yourself muttering things like, “Can you believe it? He ended that sentence with a preposition AND split an infinitive!” then you may need to get out for some fresh air.

Don’t game the system
Nothing speaks to your character, integrity and financial stability like asking the object of your ardor to write back via your regular email address, especially if this exempts you from having to pay any membership fees — and nothing smacks of desperation (and/or lack of judgment) like including your phone number in your initial email. Remember, in most people’s opinion, online dating is attractive because it preserves your anonymity — and there’s no way anyone is going to reveal his or her personal email or phone number to a stranger from the get-go these days. Instant deletion is much, much safer.

Be original
Even if you’re a total klutz with nouns, verbs and adjectives, drafting your own sweetly clumsy introductory email is vastly preferable to asking your friend (or mother) to write it for you. “If a person’s letter reads like it comes from a template — ‘I’m equally comfortable in my pajamas watching a movie at home as I am in a gown at a formal affair’ — I stop reading,” agrees David S. With a snappy yet sincere subject line and a quick check for spelling and grammar errors, who knows — your email may claw its way out of the “flee” pile and into someone’s “date me” file instead!

Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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