Dating site OKCupid has done an analysis of 500,000 inquiry messages in order to determine what keywords correlate most strongly with getting a reply or getting deleted.  It has an interesting gender lesson.

In the graphs, the middle line is the average number of responses, the green bars signify an increase in the number of responses, and the red bars a decrease.

Mentioning someone’s level of attractiveness decreased the likelihood of getting a response (for both men and women), though men were more likely to mention looks.  But general compliments about one’s profile increased the likelihood of getting a response:
compliments-chart

A good lesson in operationalization: “pretty” is used in two ways in our culture, so when they made sure to differentiate between pretty (meaning “sort of”) and pretty (“meaning attractive”), you can see clearly the way that commenting on looks decreases the recipients’ interest:
pretty-chart

So, in contrast to stereotypes, many women cannot be flattered into a date (though the figure above includes men and women, I’m assuming most people being called “pretty” are female).

Further, the site found that when men sent messages, the recipient preferred humility to bold self-confidence.  The words below all increased the chances of a woman responding to a man’s inquiry:
efface-chart

Instead of bravado and flattery, women appear to actually like men who take an interest in them.  They respond positively to phrases that indicate that he actually read their profile and is interested in the content of their person:
engage-chart

The lesson: Treat a woman (on the OK Cupid dating site) like a human being and she will respond positively.

* And to answer the question, “What do women want?”  As the comedian, my dear friend David Landsberg, would say: “Everything!

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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