Top 12 Email Icebreakers

The subject line of an email shouldn’t have to be the hardest thing you’ll ever write. Here are a dozen thought-provoking openers that should boost your odds of getting a timely response.

By Laura Schaefer

f you’ve messaged someone online and didn’t get a response, you might feel a little frustrated. After all, how hard is it to fire a simple “hello there!” back? Consider, however, just how much email the average person receives in a day. To make sure your message breaks through the cacophony, you might want to brush up on your icebreakers. Here are 12 ideas for adding some sizzle to the standard ‘How you doin?’ line. Read on…

Email Icebreaker #1: “What’s on your ____ list?”
Stand out from the crowd by expressing an interest in learning more about what he or she wants to try
If it’s an athletic person, mention a not-well-known local hiking path.
doing next for fun. Good examples for filling in the blank include: “restaurants to try,” “books to read,” or “cities to visit.”

Email Icebreaker #2: “Have you ever_____?”
“Think of something unusual you think this person might like to do,” advises Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. “If it’s an athletic person, mention a not-well-known local hiking path. If it’s someone who likes history or culture, mention an art gallery or historic landmark in your town. This is not an invitation to do anything right now before you actually meet each other; rather, it’s a tease for planning a future outing, to see if you can spark any interest.”

Email Icebreaker #3: “Have you seen this...?”
“Mention a recent movie or an upcoming event in your area and ask if the person has already seen it — or plans to sometime soon,” adds Dr. Tessina. “This can spark a good conversation.” However, be sure to read your message out loud before sending it. “My advice would be to think about your first contact like it’s a conversation, not an electronic solicitation,” counsels Dr. Julie Gurner, a personal consultant and life coach practicing in the Philadelphia and New York City areas. “I would write the same things you’d be saying if you bumped into someone socially that you found interesting and wanted to get to know better. Ready the message you’re going to send out loud to yourself, and work from there — how it sounds to you is likely also how it’s going to come across to the person who receives it.”

Email Icebreaker #4: “I’m intrigued by…”
Mention what interests you and what you liked about the other person’s online dating profile. “I have been on and off of and am actually dating a guy from there now,” says Amy Jo Beaver, a health coach in Atlanta. “My number-one suggestion is to actually read the person’s profile and reference what things you liked in it, and then ask a question (or questions) specific to that particular profile. Too many guys send generic emails that make me wonder whether they actually even read my profile.” Angela Dupont, a lead concierge living in Dallas/Ft. Worth, agrees: “My biggest gripe was when someone would just send a ‘hey, what’s up?’ type of email. I looked for proof that he actually read my profile and comprehended what it is that I’m looking for. Men need to show me a little bit about how they relate to me and why they think we could have something in common.”

Email Icebreaker #5: “How was your day?”
If a woman mentions the kind of job she has, ask her about it. Or, ask a guy what the highlight of his workday happened to be in your subject line. Showing genuine interest in how someone’s week is going will set you apart from the “What’s up?” crowd.

Email Icebreaker #6: “What do you think about…?”
Be sure to ask for a specific opinion if you go this route. “Men like a more direct approach when communicating with someone for the first time,” says Francine Kaye Acelar, editor of “They also enjoy conversations where they’re asked for their opinion on a certain topic. Men easily lose interest if the woman they’re chatting or emailing with suddenly makes the conversation all about herself.” Try starting with
This is an opener you can have some fun with, because it’s a bit silly.
this simple opener: How do you feel about___? “This can not only break the ice, it also leads to a lot of deep conversations,” continues Dr. Tessina. “Choose a recent event and ask how the other person feels about it. For example: ‘How do you feel about (the election, a very popular TV show or movie, a celebrity’s recent downfall, a story in the national news)?’ It’s very difficult for most people not to reply to a request for their opinions and feelings, so this almost guarantees you’ll have an ongoing conversation.”

Email Icebreaker #7: “When was the last time you…?”
Pose an unusual question, and you’ll definitely stand out from the crowd. People get bored with being asked what they do for a living or how they like to spend their weekends. Find something offbeat to ask instead — such as what song makes this person compelled to sing along when he or she hears it on the radio. “However, first-rule dates apply to first emails as well, so this question shouldn’t delve into heavy topics, like past relationships or the reason why someone’s doing online dating,” advises Marni Kinrys, a Los Angeles-based relationship expert and founder of The Wing Girl website. “But by asking a question, you give this person something to respond to if he or she decides to write back to you.”

Email Icebreaker #8: “I just had to write to you because...”
“A lot of people send the same canned emails out over and over again, and there’s nothing personal about it,” says Sophie Winters, author of The Cha Cha Club Dating Man-ifesto. So, it’s best to let the person you’re messaging know why you simply had to get in touch. We all want to feel that something about our profile stands out, so tell this person why this one struck you as being so special that you were compelled to write him or her about it.

Email Icebreaker #9: “Have you ever wondered…?”
It’s OK to ask a “deep thoughts” kind of question, as long as it’s not taboo or overly serious. (Try not to make it overly silly, either — humor can be tricky to convey online.)

Email Icebreaker #10: “Would you rather____ or _____?”
This is a goofy option, but if your two choices are funny or interesting, you’ll likely make a good impression. Here are some examples to try: Would you rather always find the perfect parking space or always find your missing keys/socks/wallet? Would you rather be a movie star or a celebrity chef? Would you rather be invisible or immortal? Would you rather climb a mountain or learn to surf? Would you rather be able to sleep only two hours per night or read minds?

Email Icebreaker #11: “We have____ in common!”
“See if there are things in this person’s profile that the two of you have in common — like number of siblings, pets, travels or schools — and point out that you both share those similarities,” advises Dr. Tessina. For example, try something like: “I went to Gotham City high school, too. I can’t believe I didn’t meet you there!”

Email Icebreaker #12: “Tell me two truths — and a lie.”
This is an opener you can have some fun with, because it’s a bit silly. Send your own two truths and one lie and then ask the receiver to guess which is which and invite him or her to do the same for you. Make sure all of your truths and lies are fairly superficial so everyone can have fun with it. Here’s an example: “I have a tattoo of a goldfish on my ankle, I once won a year’s supply of pretzels, and my middle name is Curtis. Now, it’s your turn!”

Laura Schaefer is the author of Why We Fall Out of Love and Ultimate Money-Saving Hacks for College Students. Follow her on Twitter: @teashopgirl.
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