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 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.

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 which 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 you’re funny; write something humorous. Don’t say you’re kind; tell them you volunteer your time to feed the homeless (as long as it’s true, of course). Don’t say 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.

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 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 the person who’s wonderful but only 5’10”. Shoot a little lower and weed them out later.

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 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?

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