Crafting emails to a potential match takes much more thought and time than, say, dashing off a grocery list. Make a mistake, and you may blow your chances. Do it right, and you'll gain your prospect's interest even before you've exchanged numbers.
Here's how to write enticing emails:
1. Safety first
Don't divulge personal information such as your last name or address until you've built a solid rapport. "This person may seem like Prince or Princess Charming, but for all you know, your pal could be romancing you from a jail cell," say Lisa Daily, author of "Stop Getting Dumped!"
2. Short n' snappy
Better to leave 'em wanting to know more than to bore them with your life story. "Stick to the high points—no more than three paragraphs," Lisa Daily suggests.
3. Tell the truth
Be honest, and you'll be more likely to meet someone who likes you just the way you are. And you won't have to explain the years and/or pounds you shaved off.
Says Melanie, a Boston publicist, "One guy sent me a picture, but when we met, it was clear that the photo was of someone else. The fact that he sent me a bogus picture was so incredibly lame that I decided never to talk to him again."
4. Don't use a canned email
Don't send the same generic "cover letter" to every possible match. "Anyone can spot a cut 'n' paste email instantly," says Melanie. "They all read something like this: 'Hi, my name is Bob. I am in management consulting and would like to meet some friends. I read your profile. You sound like a fun person to get to know.' It's clear that the person emails the identical message to a bunch of girls."
5. Not so fast
In real life, you wouldn't introduce yourself and immediately start unzipping the other person's jeans. Neither should you send suggestive emails.
"One guy sent me an email saying that he wanted to lay his head on my soft breast," says Roxanne. "I never wrote him back, but I did forward his message to all of my friends to get a good laugh."
6. Don't bombard 'em
Hit send. Then wait for a response before writing again. Kim, a Charlotte, North Carolina writer, remembers one guy who wrote her 10 or more times a day. "He seemed like a catch until he began swamping me with emails. He was so intense he scared me," she says.
A firestorm of uninvited instant messages is especially invasive. Ron, a project manager for a Los Angeles dot com, was turned off by the woman who deluged him with IMs at work. "I hadn't even given her my IM name," he says.
7. Accept rejection graciously
You can't win 'em all. If someone doesn't respond to you or indicates lack of interest, just move on. Don't get angry, don't beg; don't try to change the person's mind.
Elizabeth, a Beverly Hills dental hygienist, still fumes when she remembers the guy who got so upset when she wouldn't go out with him that he wrote, "You poor fool. I guess you have no confidence and are intimidated by me."
8. Take the next step Maryann Hammers is a freelance writer who often covers relationship issues.
If the two of you connect online, take it to the next level. Exchange phone numbers; have a real conversation; make a date. "Isn't that why we're here in the first place?" asks Sherry, a Massachusetts corporate communications executive.