The Secret Formula for a Great Opener

What makes some openers spark a great conversation? What makes others get no reply?

Here at Relationship Hero, we've tested thousands of openers on real people and studied the patterns of which ones work. We finally distilled it down to a simple formula:

Opener = Compliment + Fun

Read on to see examples of the formula in action, and you'll understand exactly what makes a great opener message.


You should always start your opener with a compliment, because it always makes the other person feel good.

You might think a compliment is fake or try-hard, but actually it's totally genuine. The honest truth is that you're interested in them, because you're choosing to message them, right? So it's congruent to compliment them in some way. A compliment is simply an authentic expression that you're interested in them.

How to think of the compliment: Ask yourself, why do I find this match attractive? If it's just that they look good in their pics, you can say "I like your pics". It's that simple! There's no need to search for a fake compliment to give them.

You can compliment the general attractiveness of their pics:

I like your pics

You're beautiful/handsome

I like your style

Or compliment something about their profile:

I like your sense of humor

I like a guy/girl who can appreciate Tolstoy

You have great taste in music

You can even write an exaggerated compliment about how attractive they are, but with a kernel of truth that's still flattering and positive

You're my prettiest match

Welcome to my exclusive group of 9s and 10s

Matching with you has made further swiping unnecessary


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Here's our definition of fun:

A message that gives emotional value and is easy to respond to.

Here are all the different types of fun that you can use for your opener:

Funny assumption about their pics

You can assume something funny about their pics, then casually talk as if that assumption is true:

When their pic has a dog with its eyes closed:

Your seeing-eye dog is neglecting his duties

When their pic shows them holding a microphone at a karaoke bar:

I like that pic of you singing Britney Spears

When their pic shows them riding a motorcycle:

I like that pic of you about to do a wheelie

Funny assumption about their profile

You can also assume something funny about their profile, then casually talk as if that assumption is true:

If their profile says they enjoy rock or metal concerts:

I see you're growing out your hair so you can headbang better at concerts

If their profile says they work as a bartender:

So you’re a bartender? I bet your ideal first date is not at a bar anymore.

If their profile says they love their dog:

I bet you make your dog approve all your dates first

Role play

Role play means pretending that the two of you are already engaged in some kind of activity together, and saying something that would only make sense in that context.

For flirting purposes, the best role play is when you act like the two of you are suddenly in a serious relationship, getting married, or even married with kids.

Examples of role play openers:

So I'm shopping for your wedding ring, can you go on Amazon real quick and pick out a diamond?

I like your pics. How about I have my mom call your mom to set up the arranged marriage?

So what instrument are you gonna force all our kids to learn to play?

Amusingly specific question

These give emotional value because your choice of specific question is unpredictable and unique, plus it's easy for the other person to respond to with whatever pops into their head.

What's your favorite ice cream flavor to binge on?

Do you vacuum often?

Describe your podcasting habits?

What's the grossest food that you only like now because you unquestioningly accepted eating it when you were little?

What's your favorite Beatles or Justin Bieber song?

Personally-targeted question

When a person mentions something in their profile, it means they'd probably enjoy having a conversation about that topic. You should take advantage of this by asking an interesting question about that topic. It gets them talking, and makes them feel like the conversation is fun and flowing naturally.

If their profile mentions being a fan of the Warriors, the team that just won the NBA finals:

How many games did you think it would take our boys to win the finals?

If their profile mentions a passion for mountain biking:

I know mountain bikers always have some notion of their "personal best". What's yours?

If their profile mentions they like to go hunting:

What size game do you go after?

Keyword improv

Take any keyword in their profile, then treat it like you're performing in an improvisational comedy show and that's your audience suggestion.

The keyword is "Pokemon Go":

I may not be a Pokemon, but I'm still a catch.

The keyword is "the office":

I see a Dwight and Angela role play in our future

The keyword is "kanye west":

And [name], I'ma let you finish, but really Beyonce was the best girl I've swiped on here

And finally… the pickup line

A pickup line is a generic funny line. It can potentially work if it makes your match laugh, but it's usually a weaker choice than the other types of fun we've outlined here.

Was your mother a beaver? Because DAAAAM!

I'm about to have a threesome, I only need two more people.

Are you my appendix? Because I don't understand how you work, but this feeling in my stomach makes me want to take you out.

If you write an opener that uses the Compliment + Fun formula, you'll get a good reply more often than not. It's not rocket science! But there are many pitfalls to avoid, so read on…

Skip the greetings and pleasantries

In online dating, it's a faux pas to send one of these openers:


Nice to meet you

Hi, how's your week going?

These uninspired openers don't get responses simply because everyone else sends them. You get lost in the crowd.

Don't be fooled by your real-life experiences saying "hello" to people. In real life, greetings and pleasantries deliver emotional value because:

  • You have a friendly facial expression and open body language
  • Your voice has a positive, friendly sound
  • You have each other's full attention

In dating apps, none of these things apply, so it's just a total waste of an opener. You're basically saying "I have nothing interesting to say. Do you?" Making them do all the work.

If the other person is attracted to your pics and profile, they might actually be willing to do all the work when faced with this kind of opener. But if you're looking for a quality date, it's probably not someone who thinks it's their job to put in all the work, which means you need to step up your opener game.

Don't state the obvious

We get it, you're using a dating site/app. There's no need to explain the obvious reality of that with messages like:

Your profile caught my eye

I just thought I'd shoot you a friendly message

I'm not a big online dater but oh what the heck, I'm giving this app a try

Talking about the act of online dating just makes you sound self-conscious. Also, it's such an obvious topic that you can be sure they've heard it many times before.

It's only okay to talk about it if the other person brings it up. Otherwise just act like you're comfortable with online dating and you're just having a normal conversation.

Don't write too much

Write your opener like you're dashing off a text, not composing an email. Don't be this guy:

The only goal of your opener message is to give the other person emotional value, and make it easy and fun for them to respond back to you. It doesn't take a wall of text to do that.

Also, asking questions is good, but there's no need to ask more than one at a time. One question at a time is a more lighthearted and engaging conversation style.

Don't mention sex

Please don't send something like this as your opener:

You're sexy

Your body turns me on

U horny?

It's fine to be sexually interested in your match, but the opener message isn't a socially-acceptable time to express that.

Make it easy for them to respond

Try this exercise: When you have an idea for a fun opener, put yourself in the recipient's shoes and read it back to yourself. Does a playful response naturally come to mind?

If not, you should probably rephrase your opener, or just tack a question onto the end. For example:

You're beautiful.

This by itself is hard to respond to. They'll say "thanks" and then they have to think of an opener for you. But they might not be sold on you yet, so you'll have wasted your chance.

You're beautiful. Was your mother a beaver? Because DAAAAM!

This is slightly better because they can respond with a laughing emoji, which gives you a useful signal that they're interested enough to justify investing more effort in them. But then you're back to square one: since the conversation hasn't really moved forward, you'll basically need to hit them with a second opener-type message.

You're beautiful. So what's your favorite ice cream flavor to binge on?

There, that's what an easy-to-respond-to message looks like. All they have to do is pick a flavor, which is fun for them to think about, and gets them in a chatty mood. They'll probably talk about why they like it that particular flavor or when they eat it.

The infamous "How's your week going" is a bad opener message not only because it doesn't offer any emotional value, but also because it's hard to respond to.

And to be more precise, it's hard to respond to well. The laziest response that pops into the recipient's mind is "Pretty good, thanks". But they know that if they sent that back to you, they'd be responsible for producing a boring conversation. They don't want to feel guilty about that, so they simply don't reply.

So if you want to get responses, make it easy for them to respond. Makes sense, right?

Personalized Opener > Generic Opener

Imagine an attractive person walks up to you at a party. Would you get more excited if they said something about some random topic, or something about you?

Now you understand why the best openers are personalized: because a personalized opener shows a person that you're interested in them.

That said, a generic opener can still do the job if you're feeling lazy, like this fun opener that Aziz Ansari texts to every girl in Master of None:

Going to Whole Foods, want me to pick you up anything?

Pasting the same opener to everyone is admittedly the quickest strategy, but it comes at a cost. If your match can tell you're using a generic opener, which they usually can, they'll feel like you're not particularly interested in them and you're just playing the field.

You might think, "Why should I spend effort writing a personalized opener when it's just going to get ignored?" Well, you might not realize it's only the bad openers that constantly get ignored. Good personalized openers get a response more often than not. They're worth the effort.

Most people feel like they have to blast out generic openers to dozens of matches, the "spray and pray" method, because they're not used to getting responses from the people they're attracted to. When you send a personalized opener, it means you must think your chances of it working are high enough that you can afford to dote on a select few of your matches. That speaks volumes about your confidence and attractiveness.

The Relationship Hero advantage

We've now taught you everything you need to write a good opener. Applying this knowledge will help you get quality dates online and via dating apps.

Don't get discouraged if you find that writing a good opener takes 15 minutes or more. It's a nuanced art. That's why when you do it well, it sends a reliable signal that you're an intelligent and socially-savvy person.

And now you can see the advantage of using a service like Relationship Hero. We're #1 in the world at what we do, with thousands of hours of experience helping people write quality openers. (Yep, we have a hard time explaining our job to our parents.)

If you want to take your openers to the next level, try our coaching.

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