What To Say In An Opening Text, Because You're Better Than "Hey"

Updated:
Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Real-life dating practices just don't quite translate to online dating. At a party, in person, eye contact, body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions can make "Hey" a showstopping opener. Same with "How are you?" Online, when your inbox is a sea of one word greetings, simple is not better. But what should you say in an opening message?

Feeling the burden of the first outreach, many people scared to say something wrong, they tell me. They're also not sure what to say, they may be a bit nervous, and sending a note altogether is taxing on its own. So they play it safe. But let's face it: safe on the internet just means forgettable. And frankly, if you've been online dating long enough, it gets really, really irritating.

It's not just irritating — it's not effective in online dating, either. According to a report gathered by OkCupid in 2015 and shared with Bustle, 84 percent of the time, a “hey” opener will be totally ignored on the dating platform.

Still at a loss for alternatives? Here are a few things you can try instead of "Hey" — and the proof is in my screenshots.

1. Call Out A Shared Interest

Left Image:Cathy VandewaterRight Image:Cathy Vandewater

This is just another excellent reason to read the person's profile! Showing off shared knowledge of something the person mentioned is a great way in: we all love talking about the stuff we like doing, watching, listening to, etc. It can also set the stage for a much higher quality first date. (Think: you both catch the latest Linklater film versus get a drink).

Above are a few examples of guys proving they recognized my Jack Handey quote on Tinder. I went on several dates with the first guy and I still talk to him. I just blew your mind, didn't I Nancy Jo Sales?

And the second one is me successfully leveraging Flight of the Conchords lyric recognition: Both of these conversations were SO much more fun that reciting weekend plans to each other.

3. Feign Interest In Something OTHER Than A Date

Ask what accommodations they'd recommend in Machu Pichu (because everyone on Tinder has been, duh), or how much their rib tattoo hurt. Or you can pretend to want to date their dog, which works like a charm for me.

It's also a cute way to establish a rapport and keep the conversation going. After I showed interest in their dog, I got this sexy snapshot days later.

Cathy Vandewater

4. Do A "Blurt" Share

As a last resort, share a (non-offensive) joke or something stupid you saw on the internet. "Why is this so funny to me right now" with a funny dog or cat image you saw on Instagram or Twitter, would totally get an answer from me. And if the person doesn't get it and says "WTF" you can always apologize and use flattery: "Sorry, I wanted to talk to you because you were so cute and I didn't know what to say. I'm *insert name*."

5. Do Not Call Someone You Don't Know "Cutie, Sexy, Beautiful," Etc.

Some people might be into it, but I personally find it overly familiar and a tad condescending, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

6. Do Not Say "To Hell With it, I'll Just Ask For Sex."

Or do, but don't expect much. You can totally be just looking for a hookup on a dating site or app — there's nothing wrong with that — but just like you would if you were trying to get to someone IRL, it's important to at least say hello first before jumping right in. Instead of saying suggesting sex in the middle of a conversation about dogs, ask them what they're looking for on the app. You'll get a better idea if you're on the same page or not and you won't run the risk of making anyone uncomfortable. Same goes for conducting lazy conversation then trying to segue into sex talk. You have to earn that, friend.

7. No Dirty Riddles Or Jokes

Just please no.

8. Don't Keep Hammering Away At A Dead Lead

Cathy Vandewater

If someone doesn't answer you, your best bet is to take it as a sign they're not interested and move on. There's no point in sending them another message — it only makes the other person uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, The Golden Rule holds as true for new Tinder interactions as it does for all your exchanges: Text unto others as you would like to be texted yourself.

Regardless of who you're looking for, and however you feel about online dating etiquette, you have to admit: boring questions are, at best, boring, and at worst, infuriating to some of the people receiving them. You can do better than pissing people off!

As a wise person once said, "an inbox full of crap is an empty inbox." Don't be the person that fills another person's inbox with crap.

And for God's sake say something other than "hey."

This piece was originally published on August 21, 2015. It was updated on June 24, 2019.

This article was originally published on