You may have the best profile on the online mature dating block, but you won’t get many dates if you can’t flirt when messaging. The route from profile to real-life date can be quick and seductive if you get it right. Here are some unwritten rules to help you successfully play on the modern mature dating game:

Don’t: Give up if your profile doesn’t get many (or any) responses.

Do: Tweak your profile to improve its appeal. Add more and better pictures. Read other older single profiles to get an idea of what works – but don’t copy them!

Don’t: Sit back and wait for people to message you.

Do: Be proactive. If you see someone you like, send a quick, friendly message. With more than 7 million UK singles involved in online older dating, if you don’t take the initiative someone else will.

Don’t: Be vague. “You sound really nice” won’t by itself inspire a reply from someone over 50.

Do: Remember that compliments work when they’re specific. “Your music collection sounds brilliant, I bet you’re great company in a record shop” is specific, flattering and suggests something you could do together.

Don’t: Message someone without reading their profile.

Do: Be interested in what they’ve written. Hook them with an original, open-ended question about a specific point in their bio.

Don’t: Overdo the photo compliments.

Do: Be interested in what they say, not what they look like. Vague leering (“You’re really hot” etc.) is like a builder’s wolf whistle: unlikely flattering, and even less likely to lead to a date.

Don’t: Cut n’ paste the same introductory message to several older singles.

Do: Write to a person, not an audience of thousands.

Don’t: Ask something they’ve been asked 100 times before.

Do: Be original. If they play the guitar, don’t ask how long they’ve been playing; ask which tune they wish they could play as a party piece. If they love travelling, don’t ask which country they liked the best; ask which one took them most by surprise.

Don’t: Machine-gun them with questions.

Do: Stick to a question or two per message, and be conversational. You don’t want to sound like an exam paper or Jeremy Paxman.

Don’t: Babble.

Do: Write a few lines. If they have to scroll down to read any of it, it’s far too long.

Don’t: Be sarcastic.

Do: Remember that your tone of voice is difficult to convey in writing – especially to someone you’ve never met.

Don’t: Forget your English language skills.

Do: Read through your message before you send it. If in doubt, use your spell-checker. Also, avoid using many smiley faces, at least until you know your correspondent better.

Don’t: Message people you’re not really interested in.

Do: Write to just two or three people to start with. You may need to keep track of who’s who.

Don’t: Message at 11pm on a Saturday night.

Do: Get in touch at any time that doesn’t suggest you’ve got too much time on your hands. Late Sunday afternoon is the sweet spot.

Don’t: Message after you’ve had a pint or five. Non mutual drunkenness isn’t usually appreciated in mature dating.

Do: Have your wits about you. When you’ve rocked home from the pub with a traffic cone on your head, you do not have your wits about you.

Don’t: Ask for more photos. It will make you look appearance-obsessed, and your potential date may feel insecure.

Do: Give them a chance to respond and build up a rapport over a couple of messages.

Don’t: Ask them out in your first message.

Do: Find someone else to write to. Most singles involved in online mature dating only respond to messages that spark interest. Pestering them just wastes their time and yours.

Don’t: Write again if they don’t reply.

Do: Save your time for the messages that float your boat. If someone gets in touch and you’re not interested, you won’t break their heart by not replying. Unless they’re an unhinged obsessive, in which case they’re probably not your ideal partner.

Don’t: Freak out if they message you again, despite your lack of interest.

Do: Reply this time with a firm rebuff. No excuses or apologies. Just a mature answer: “Thanks for your lovely note, but I’m not sure we’re right for each other. Good luck with your mature dating journey.”

Don’t: Block someone just because you don’t like their first message.

Do: Block someone only if their messages are persistent and/or rude.

Don’t: Reply immediately to every message.

Do: One instant reply is fine, but a string of them suggests that you’re waiting by the computer with nothing better to do. If someone’s bothered to write to you, they can wait a few hours.

Don’t: Wait more than a day to reply.

Do: Twenty-four hours is a long time in online mature dating. Long enough for your correspondent to arrange a date with someone else. If you’re interested, show them.

Don’t: Leave it too long before popping the date question.

Do: Ask within a week or so of your first contact. Any longer, and you’ll lose momentum.

Don’t: Push them to talk on the phone. A lot of people are pretty shy about talking on the phone, so don’t get offended if they’re not keen.

Do: Remember that if you’ve swapped a few messages with someone, they may be getting their hopes up about meeting you. Have the courage to let them down. A white lie that you’ve met someone else may soften the blow. Wish them well, and let them dive back into the senior dating pool.

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