Writing Your Online Dating Profile: Things to Keep in Mind

(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)

I’ve looked at a fair amount of online dating profiles that were written by males, and I’ve talked to men who have looked at a wide variety of female profiles. Because of this, I’ve been able to draw a very important conclusion: most of us are not very original. While there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with having our words sound very similar to those of many other people, it’s also very hard to stand out.

Sometimes you get to the point where — unless the photos or something else about the profile are truly exceptional — seeing the same types of descriptions and over-used phrases are enough to make you close the browser tab without bothering to initiate contact.

If you want your dating profile to stand out from the masses, there are certain things that could be helpful to keep in mind:

1. Your screen name

Don’t choose a name like SexKitten or HotPants unless you’re trying to attract the kind of guy who’s drawn to that sort of description.

2. The header

This is the short tagline that appears at the top of your profile — short, sweet and to the point. Some people say it’s important to have a catchy headline, but I’m ambivalent about this one. If you can think of something good to put up there, you should do so. As for me, I rarely pay attention to the headers on people’s profiles or notice what they say.

Lateesha at Black Cupid has tips on How to Grab Attention With Your Online Dating Profile Header.

I’ve noticed that a witty line or a philosophical quote really work as headers. This one — “You must be over 5’10″ to read this profile” is funny, yet it’s pretty obvious to others that they don’t stand a chance if they don’t meet the height requirement! Or if philosophy is more your style, use a favorite quote like “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world” and people know you’re a romantic.

3. Photos

Having a range of photos on your profile can lessen other mistakes you might make while writing. On the flip side, you may have an awesome rockin’ profile, but if you don’t include decent photos (or God forbid, if you don’t include any photos at all), your efforts may go largely unnoticed.

You need close-ups, so people can see what you really look like (without your face being obscured by sunglasses or a hat), as well as full-body shots. It’s also a good idea to include a photo where you appear dressed-up, and also in casual clothes.

Maybe you’re going to tell me that you don’t have any photos. I understand; my roommate is thinking about joining Facebook and I’ve already told her that she needs at least one photo to use for her main profile picture. She balks; she says she doesn’t have any good ones that have been taken recently. I continue to say, you need at least one. No exceptions! I would take some for her if she was willing to let me point a camera her way.

If you don’t have photos, ask around for people who may have some of you, or ask someone you know to take new ones, or hold your digital camera at arm’s length and take one of yourself. Do whatever you need to do, just make sure they represent what you really look like (current day, or at least within the past year or two).

I’ve skipped over plenty of emails and winks from people simply because I wasn’t able to get a good look at their face. Why take the time to return their email and ask to see a better photo when there are plenty of people who have made sure they’re representing themselves the way they should?

4. Substance

You should write enough, but not too much. Your description should be at least a few paragraphs (it should look like you cared enough to make an effort), but nobody wants to scroll down and read a book. Leave some of that for when you meet the person for the first time.

5. Avoid Cliches

It’s always better to give a specific example of a character trait you possess, rather than just saying that a certain word describes you. Don’t say that you’re funny; write something humorous. Don’t say that you’re kind; tell them that you volunteer your time to feed the homeless (as long as it’s true, of course). Don’t say that you like to cook; mention the fact that people salivate over your chicken marsala or chocolate cupcakes.

A lot of people like to take walks on the beach, hang out with their friends, stay active, and travel to faraway places. Instead of simply stating these facts, add as much detail as possible. Is there a beach you particularly like to walk on? Which physical activities do you like? Which destinations have you traveled to and what’s next on your list?

Here’s another oft-used line: “I like to go out and have fun, but I also like to stay in and just chill and watch a movie.” Of course you do. Doesn’t everyone? Unless the only thing you live for is to go out as much as possible, or the only thing you do is stay inside, there’s no need to state the obvious.

I found a post written by a guy named Lance from Honey and Lance. He wrote a great example of a female dating profile that nicely sums up the overuse of cliches, and concluded with this:

I just wrote a 400 word profile and it said ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Believe it or not, I lifted parts of every one of those lines from actual profiles. Ladies, if your profile reads like this, you’re not marketing yourself properly. All you’re selling is your pretty face via pictures and we’re ignoring your profile because it’s total bullshit. If the pics are the only thing the guy can focus on, you’re only attracting on a sexual level. And you wonder why guys just wanna fuck and run?

6. Don’t be too specific

…about the type of person you’re looking for. Even though it’s good to have preferences, you may find that you end up liking someone who doesn’t fit all of them. If you say you’re looking for someone 6’0″ or taller, you might miss out on that person who’s wonderful but only 5’10″. Shoot a little lower and weed them out later.

Jenn from Random Thoughts said this in the context of male profiles, but the advice is the same:

Don’t write an exact description of the girl you’re looking for. Seriously, do you think you’re really going to find a girl that has long black hair, green eyes, is five foot seven, and 120 pounds? (Yes, this was what one guy said he was looking for.) What if she’s 119 pounds? Is that not good enough for you?

7. The tone

Keep it positive. Don’t write something like, “I’ve been hurt in the past and I don’t know if I’ll ever find anyone I can trust again, but I figured I’d give it shot.” I don’t care if that’s what you’re thinking! DON’T SAY IT! I completely bypass people who say something negative like that in their profiles.

8. Should you let a friend read/proofread your profile?

If you’re not all that comfortable with writing, or if you’re having trouble describing yourself, having someone take a look is definitely a good idea (especially because they’re often able to think of things you might not have thought of).

This should go without saying, but creating your profile means editing for misspelled words and glaring grammatical errors. If this isn’t your strong point, ask someone to look it over. Obvious mistakes make it look like you didn’t care enough to spend the time making your profile look presentable.

9. Don’t lie

Whether it’s exaggerating a skill, saying you have a college degree when you don’t, adding a couple of inches to your height, or posting photos from ten years (or thirty pounds) ago, just…no. You’ll be found out at some point, and that person isn’t going to appreciate it. I always err on the side of caution — if someone isn’t going to be interested, I’d rather they know it sooner rather than later.

Do you agree/disagree? What am I missing?

Related Reading:

Big City Bumpkin‘s friend asked her for help writing her online dating profile.

Yahoo Personals: Building the Perfect Personals Profile

Guardian: Raising your profile


  1. You hit SO MANY of my main points. #7 is key — I will not respond to a guy who says “I’m just trying this out in case it happens to work, but I don’t believe in online dating.” Um, okay, then I guess you shouldn’t be here.

    #5 is also important. I want to know a little something about what makes that person unique. Why should I care? Everyone likes movies — do you love zombie movies? (I wrote that in my dating profile once) or are you an action fan? Give *specific* examples of stuff you like. And if you like taking walks on the beach, you’d be better off writing “And if I don’t get back to you right away, it’s because I seriously am taking long walks on the beach. Two or three miles along the beach on a regular basis is my favorite form of exercise/relaxation.”

    And, yes, good pictures are key. I just went back and reread my boyfriend’s profile (we met online). I originally remembered it as being boring, but he messaged me, we met up right after, and I forgot all about the whole profile thing. Turns out that the profile is pretty much him and really not that bad, but the pictures are awful. Old pics that don’t really look like him and don’t show off his best features. In my mind, pictures really make or break the profile. When I was in the swing of things, I even changed my profile pics regularly to keep things fresh.

    Posted February 2, 2009 at 3:43 pm #
  2. My peeve are the guys who write a whole huge list of demands – must be fit, feminine, have a great job, have long hair, be practically perfect in every way…but then don’t go on to tell me anything positive or interesting about themselves.

    Hey, buddy, don’t have crazy expectations if you aren’t bringing anything of your own to the table. Also, it just comes across as negative and picky.

    Posted February 2, 2009 at 5:25 pm #
  3. That is some very good advice you have there. I also clicked on the link to Lance’s post and was cracking up! :)

    Posted February 2, 2009 at 5:38 pm #
  4. It seriously baffles me how complete strangers can think it’s ok not to at minimum give you a face. Why’s there a reason to trust them from the get-go, right? That’s totally a pet peeve of mine. Just seems sketchy.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm #
  5. “If the pics are the only thing the guy can focus on, you’re only attracting on a sexual level. And you wonder why guys just wanna fuck and run?”

    Geez. What about the date that you might go on before the f* and run? Bah.

    I do agree that having a good profile text can set a person apart, of course, but not to excuse the kind of people mentioned in this quote.

    Posted February 4, 2009 at 1:59 am #
  6. I agree with what you’ve said. Another reason not to be too specific is that it is a turn off. If a guy posted a specific physical description, I wouldn’t contact him even if I fit that description perfectly. I might be 5’7″ 125 lbs between the ages of 23 and 24 right NOW, but what if I gain 5 pounds? Is he going to break up with me? I wouldn’t want to date anyone that obsessed with appearance and I bet most girls feel the same way. Another turn off is when guys only want to date girls younger than them. Even though I think I’d end up dating a younger guy if I were to date again, I’d never put that kind of restriction in my profile.

    classic jen
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 9:41 am #