For every woman who tells me guys only look at the pictures on her online dating profile, I have two guys who tell me otherwise. It’s true, men are visual creatures. But so are women, including this woman. And I know when I come across a guy who I think is physically attractive, what he writes can either spark my interest further or, alternatively, snuff it out completely. When it comes to online dating profiles, a picture is not always worth a thousand words — for either of the sexes.
What you say matters. There are a lot of eligible singles utilizing online dating sites and apps meaning the onus is on YOU to distinguish yourself from the competition. Posting appealing pictures is an essential first step to creating an engaging online dating profile but not the only step. The words you choose are a close second because, based on what you write, you have the power to create the most flattering picture of all — the one that is conjured in the mind.
Here are nine tips for writing an engaging online dating profile that will not only pique the interest of others but leave them wanting to learn more.
1. Choose a meaningful username. Pretend you’re an advertising executive who recently landed a big account. You’re now charged with the job of selling your product in a few characters. How can you accomplish this? A play on words is one effective way. Are you a beekeeper named Bea? How about calling yourself “QueenBea?” Are you a screenwriter? How about calling yourself “Mr.Write?” Playful examples for sure but, hopefully, you get the point. Usernames such as “BrownEyes203” or “MuscleMan918” do little for speaking to who you are and only to what you look like. You’ve already posted pictures specifically for this purpose. The idea is to now jump off the page and become more than another pretty/handsome face. Also, be mindful of the image you want to portray, meaning if you’re a guy named Stan who’s looking for a long-term relationship, it’s probably best not to call yourself “OneNightStan.”
2. Use your words. The same advice you received as a child when you were asked to communicate how you were feeling applies here. Online dating sites offer a specific number of characters for a reason. Use them. Pretend you’re actually on the date you’re trying to get. What would you want that person to know about you? What would you want to tell them? If what you have to say somehow gets lost in translation when you begin typing, try this: grab your cell phone and start recording a message to yourself about yourself. Lead with a quick story or anecdote. Once you’re finished, play back what you’ve dictated, writing it down as you do. Lo and behold, you will have a first draft from which you can now craft a more enticing online dating profile, one that doesn’t list meaningless adjectives that can be found on countless profiles beside your own.
3. Spellcheck. For the love of God, spellcheck what you’ve written. In this day and age, there is no excuse for typos, incorrect punctuation, or poor grammar. People will judge you for your errors and hold them against you.
4. Be positive! Beginning your profile with “I don’t know why I’m on this site,” or “Does anyone really read these things?” is, to put it mildly, a turnoff. If you set yourself up for failure, undoubtedly you will fail. People who are positive attract other positive people. People who are negative attract other negative people or, worse still, no one at all. Highlight a part of your life that you’re excited about — a hobby, a cause, a life change that has empowered you — and lead with it. Ask a question. Make a bold statement. Begin with a quote from someone who inspires you and work off of that.
5. Ask a friend. When you’re finished writing your profile, run it by a friend or, better yet, three friends, at least one of whom is of the opposite sex. Ask “Is my profile engaging?” “Is it true to who I am?” “Would you want to meet me after reading it?” Then take any suggestions to heart, making changes as you see fit.
6. Be honest. When it comes to writing online dating profiles, as it does in real life, honesty really is the best policy. No one wants to schedule a date with someone who claims to be a skilled tennis player only to find out on the tennis court he or she can barely swing a racquet. The same goes for your age. If you’re 52, there’s no sense writing that you look, act, and feel younger or, worse yet, lying about your age. Be proud of who you are and where you are in your life. The right person will be eager to share your enthusiasm. Pull a bait and switch and you will instead see how enthusiasm can quickly turn to ambivalence, even anger.
7. Don’t be rude. Being honest about what you’re looking for in a partner is one thing, being rude is another and the line can be a fine one. One of the “best” (euphemism) phrases I’ve read on an online dating profile was this one: “If the only gym you know is a guy named Jim, move on.” Okay, I get it. A lot of men prefer a slender woman. But unless you’re sporting Brad Pitt’s body in the movie “Troy,” especially among us middle agers, all I can do is point you to a glass house and a few stones.
8. Be elusive. Your online dating profile is not a confessional booth, AA, or a blog post in which to air your dirty laundry. We all have a history and possibly a skeleton or two in the closet. Your “issues” can be discussed when you’re actually in a relationship, not when you’re first looking for one.
9. Don’t exclude. If what you’ve been doing so far hasn’t been working, i.e. you find yourself dating the same type of person over and over again and yielding the same (undesirable) result each time, try broadening your search. Compatibility lies far deeper than whether or not you and a prospective partner both like to cook or whether you enjoy similar music. Compatibility actually has more to do with sharing common core values. So go ahead and experiment! As Oscar Wilde once said, “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.” Hey, you never know. Finding love online may be just the surprise you’ve been waiting for.
Interested in a professionally written online dating profile customized especially for you? Visit me, Stacey Freeman, at WriteOnTrack’s online store for more information.
This article appeared on the Huffington Post January 8, 2016.