Messages sent by guys are, overall, only about half as likely to get replies as similar messages from women.

Apparently, after about 360 words (1800 characters), you start scaring people off.

A message like that is the online equivalent of a face tattoo. Let’s generate our efficiency table for women: Incredibly enough, the optimal first outreach from a woman to a man is just 50 characters long!

I’m willing to speculate that this graph is telling us that a guy decides whether or not to reply to a woman’s message regardless of what the message actually says, and that the first message’s function is simply to bring her profile to his attention.

Even on a lively site like Ok Cupid, only about a third (32%) of first messages get any response. In the next several posts here on Ok Trends, we’ll be taking a closer look at messaging and finding some ways to improve your own message response rate. The idea is that this is the ultimate goal of the first message: to start a conversation with someone.

Let’s start with this chart: The y-axis is reply percentage; the x-axis is message length, in characters; and the two lines are as follows. Green is the ratio of messages that get a reply that in turn gets replied to by the original sender.

At least in terms of using your time efficiently, your messages should be much shorter.

Almost 16% of first messages are over 2000 characters (roughly 400 words), and the average is 743!

If we imagine that people type messages at about 200 characters per minute, we get the following table: Of course, we shouldn’t forget that there’s a certain amount of overhead involved with contacting someone (scanning her profile for common interests, thinking of jokes to make, taking a deep breath, clicking around, and so on).

If we include 5 minutes of forethought, we find that the actual ideal first message length is 200 characters, or 1 minute’s worth of typing for the average writer. Something we learned building Spark Notes, in our pre-Ok Cupid days.

If you’re the kind of person who spends a little more time reading a profile and thinking about your message, say, 10 minutes, then the optimal length goes up a few words (to 270 characters), but, still, For women, the most efficient message is even shorter.

The shortest messages get almost the best absolute response rate, and the reply rate actually goes down as messages approach extreme length.