The most important thing is to know your own preference. When I did the personal ad which Ruth answered, I said, “Be prepared for an engaging email discussion before we meet.” That was my personal preference. Some women want to cut to the chase, as it were, and do only logistical details once both women have decided to meet in person. Other women would want to have contact via email, phone or skype before meeting in person.
The second factor is how far apart you live with the woman you are meeting. If you live relatively close by, then meeting for coffee isn’t a big deal – less contact before the first date might make sense. But if she lives in a different city, state or country, then obviously, more contact before meeting for the first time will be necessary.
Some women prefer having a phone conversation before the first date. Perhaps they are really busy, and taking time out for a live date (and travel to and from that date) is something they need to consider carefully. Or they would just prefer to have that kind of contact before deciding to meet in person.
In any event, know what you would prefer, and be willing to suggest that when you first message someone you might be interested in. And if your preference or hers conflict, remember that you get to decide what you want to do. Don’t just do what she suggests because she suggests it – be conscious of the decision you are making and why. (In other words, it’s fine to do what she suggests, but be clear with yourself, and her, that your preferences are different.)
One thing we do suggest is, unless you live at a distance where a relatively short (1 hour) meeting in person entails an overnight trip, the sooner you meet in person the better. And certainly, do not, even if the pre-first date communication is fairly in-depth, start using terms of endearment before you have met the woman once. And if she starts using terms of endearment before you have met, consider that a big red flag.