7 Tips To Write The Right Words

Electronic communications can leave out crucial information that’s easily conveyed while face-to-face with a date. To avoid having your words misconstrued, try these seven e-communication tips.

By Chelsea Kaplan

one is the era when the only way you could get in touch with the object of your affection was by picking up a phone and dialing it; thanks to electronic methods of instant communication — like email, text messaging and posting on social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter — sending a message to the object of your affection is
Yes, communicating online is a fact of life.
as easy as pressing a few buttons. Despite the multitude of communication methods for daters these days, often, the most obvious (and frequently experienced) pitfalls are a message getting lost or having your words and/or their intentions getting misconstrued since you’re not communicating face-to-face with each other.

In order to save you from some common online dating missteps or sending your date the wrong message with an electronic communication, we asked Sandra E. Lamb, author of Write the Right Words, for her suggestions on how to best phrase any online dating communiqués — along with texts, emails and Facebook posts you might share with someone you’re interested in. Before you contact another potential date, be sure to consider Lamb’s seven tips below:

1. Remember that electronic communication only tells “part of the story”
Yes, communicating online is a fact of life, but remember that with instant responses and on-the-go Internet connectivity comes the possibility — or even likelihood — of missing some of the important nuances found in nonverbal communication that often tell us more than words can, Lamb cautions. Imagine how “I’m really tired. Can we do it another day?” may “read” to the recipient of your email. Now imagine how it could be “read” when you’re actually saying it with either a decidedly blasé or an extremely apologetic and sincere tone of voice. Different inflections and facial expressions can carry a variety of implied meanings, right? The bottom line is, the chance that your date will interpret that electronically delivered message in the exact way you intended it are sometimes slim. In order to avoid sending your date the wrong message, Lamb recommends using face-to-face communication when there is great emotional content to your message, or your message requires a “human moment.”

2. Reserve electronic communication for the “right” times
Lamb says that texting is great for a quick note, such as “I’m thinking about you,” “You’ll do great in your presentation,” or a simple “Good morning.” Email, she notes, works best for the exchange of factual information — such as where you’re meeting that night and the directions to get there, or noting that your sister is allergic to strawberries so your date will know to avoid bringing strawberry shortcake for dessert at her house this Saturday. “Face-to-face communication is best for discussion, negotiation, and getting to know the other person,” Lamb explains. And remember: unless you’d feel comfortable with it being forwarded around to people you don’t know or posted on the front page of the newspaper, never put your words in writing.

3. Choose your words carefully while writing your online dating profile
As anyone who’s ever created an online dating profile can attest, writing the essay section can be tricky. Before you start fashioning yours, Lamb recommends reading dozens of profiles and analyzing them for wording that appeals to you first — and what turns you off. “Of course, you should be factual and write about aspects of yourself that you consider deal-makers or breakers,” Lamb advises. For example, if you love dogs and own two of them, include that information to attract like-minded matches and weed out the rest. While honesty is the best policy in many profile-writing efforts, it isn’t a good idea to share too much, according to Lamb: “Don’t write about former relationships or make comments like, ‘I must suck at this online dating because I’ve tried it lots of times, and I’ve never gotten anywhere,’” she says. “Writing this kind of thing will likely ensure that you won’t get anywhere this time, either!” Lastly, steer clear of using words and phrases you saw in others’ profiles that are overused or that you found smacked of insincerity, as others will interpret your use of them in the same way.

4. Make your “thanks, but no thanks” response succinct
Lamb asserts that you are not obliged to respond to a wink or an electronic expression of interest if you aren’t intrigued by the sender. “That’s the protocol,
It isn’t a good idea to share too much.
and everyone understands it,” she explains. However, if you prefer to respond more directly, she suggests that a “Thanks for your email, I’m flattered, but I don’t think we’re compatible” response is perfectly appropriate and respectful.

5. Show interest by initiating a conversation
Lamb says that the best and most appropriate way to engage in an online flirtation with someone who interests you is by choosing a neutral topic from his or her profile to initiate a back-and-forth discussion. “Pick out something ‘neutral’ in the other person’s profile that you’d like to discuss or learn more about, and then comment or ask that person a question about it,” she suggests. Avoid potentially sensitive topics, like religion or a past marriage. Instead, inquire about that photo she posted of herself standing atop a mountain: “Looks like you enjoy the outdoors! Are you an avid climber?” Or, if he’s dressed as Elvis on a day that’s clearly not Halloween, write: “Wow, I guess Elvis really isn’t dead! Are you a huge fan of the King, or do you make your living as an impersonator?” Move slowly, as it can save you a lot of time later, says Lamb. Better to find out that someone’s not right for you through these early email conversations than later, while you’re face-to-face at dinner.

6. Set up a simple, brief first date
When you’re ready to arrange your first meeting with someone you’ve met online or have been set up with on a blind date, Lamb encourages making it both brief and with a specific location or time in mind. She suggests emailing your date and writing something along the lines of, “How about having a cup of coffee at (location)?” or “I’d like to meet you. How about (day and time)?” After that first date, send a simply stated follow-up email, like: “That was fun” or “I enjoyed meeting you, let’s do it again.” At this early stage of the dating game, it’s never a bad idea to remain slightly distant to see how things play out, Lamb says: “Remember, move slowly so as not to communicate in a way that misleads or confuses a potential mate!”

7. Know that in some circumstances, it is OK to end a relationship by email
If you’ve only engaged in an email-based relationship with someone, Lamb says it’s perfectly fine to end things the same way with that person. But when a relationship has lasted for awhile and involved lots of personal interaction, she believes that a face-to-face ending is in order. “Regardless of how you end a relationship, the language you use should be kind but final — leaving no room for misunderstanding on the part of the other person,” Lamb says. Avoid making insincere apologies or attempts to shoulder the blame in order to spare another person’s feelings. Doing so — either in writing or in person — only makes matters worse and more likely to cause unnecessary hurt (not to mention drama) in the end.

Chelsea Kaplan is deputy editor of and regularly appears as a guest on XM Radio’s “Broad Minded.” Her blog, “I’m Somebody’s Mother?” can be found at
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