Millions of people around the world use online dating sites every day. The fact that these sites are now so widely used has led to the creation of a whole new set of social rules and expectations. Online dating etiquette may not seem very important from the outside, but if you use online dating websites, then you know just how challenging it can be to figure out what’s appropriate and what’s not in the world of online dating. Fortunately, there are a few easy rules you can follow to help you navigate your own online dating experience.

Initiating The Conversation

One of the simplest mistakes many online daters make is not putting enough effort into their first message to someone they’re interested in. “Hey, wanna chat?” “What’s up?” and “Liked your profile, you seem cool.” are absolutely not enough to get your potential match’s attention.

In most cases, that initial greeting is make or break when it comes to whether you two will continue to communicate, so it’s critical that you make yourself stand out from the crowd. In general, your message should be short and to the point. Here are a few good approaches for your first message to a potential match:

Mention one of your common interests: Show that you read their profile by pointing out something you have in common. “Hey, I love Wes Anderson movies too. Which one is your favorite?” is good example because it not only mentions a shared interest, it also invites them to respond.

Ask for more information: This is a great way to show you’re interested and allow the person to tell you more about themselves. For example, “What beach is that in your profile photo? It looks amazing.” invites the person you’re interested in to tell a story.

Use the icebreakers wisely: Many dating sites have sample questions you can include to get the conversation started. These are a great option if you’re stumped for what to say, but they can be effective. Just keep in mind that choosing “What’s your favorite book?” sends a very different message than “What’s your biggest turn-on?”

Getting To Know Each Other

One great way to keep the conversation going after that first email is to always include questions in your messages. For instance, if you’re telling them about where you grew up, ask something along the lines of “What was your childhood like? Did you grow up in a big city too?” after you finish telling your story. This lets the other person know you’re interested and helps them feel compelled to write back.

It’s okay to make these messages a little longer than that first one, but don’t dive right into sending emails that are pages long – a few paragraphs will do as you’re still getting to know each other. However, there are certain questions you should stay away from due to their personal nature. Save questions like these for when you have been communicating for a while or have met in person:

Avoid: Where do you work? Instead ask: What field do you work in?

Avoid: Where do you live? Instead ask: What neighborhood do you live in? Where do you live? Instead ask: What neighborhood do you live in?

Avoid: Where did you go to school? Instead ask: What was college life like for you?

If someone asks you one of these or any other question you feel is off-limits, just politely say that you prefer to wait to talk about those kinds of details until you know someone a little better.

Communicating Offline

The time to meet offline varies greatly depending on personal feelings. You might hit it off and agree to meet after talking online for a week, or you could talk online for six months before you’re ready. The key is to gauge whether the other person wants to meet and ease into the question.

If you’d like to meet in person, first pose a few hypothetical situations and see how they react. If you’re talking about a new museum that’s opening up in town, say “Maybe the two of us can go check it out together sometime.” If they respond positively, then you should consider asking them to meet up in person. Alternatively, if you’re being asked to meet up and you’re not ready, just say “Maybe after we know each other a little better first.” The same goes for talking on the phone. Make a non-committal suggestion first to see whether your potential match is interested.

Regardless of when or if you decide to meet up, the most important thing is to be safe. Always meet in a public place and let a friend or family member know where you’ll be. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, make an excuse to leave.

Rejection From Both Sides Of The Coin

Sadly, a rejection may likely happen at some point during your online dating life. If you’re rejected, don’t take it to heart. It takes time and patience to find the right person and rejections are all a part of that journey.

If you want to politely let someone down, just be kind and honest if you choose to say anything at all. If the message they sent was very short, you can choose to just not reply if that seems easier. When you do feel a response is the right thing, just say “I don’t think we’re a match, but I wish you the best of luck.”


Online dating can be a lot easier when you keep these simple rules in mind. Knowing how to respond in certain situations or how to help your online relationship progress into an offline relationship are key techniques to successful online dating. Just remember that you may need to be patient for the right person to come along, but the wait will be well worth it.