Art of writing dating profiles

Sad Staff Robot is sad.

There is a lot to be said about dating profiles… Some are much worst than others (and I’ve seen some very bad ones)

Just the other day I saw one where the question was, 6 things you couldn’t do without… She wrote (and I quote) $$, $$, $$, ££, ££ and ££. I mean really, no wonder she was 76% enemy!

Of course it really depends on what your after, but rather than point out some of the crazy profiles I’ve seen, Tom Morris has given a nice overview of the mistakes people make, beyond the usual spelling and grammar stuff. Actually on OKcupid you can make edits to peoples profiles, so I guess I’ve made a few edits to other peoples profiles which have been accepted. Anyway…

Although I’m not sure if Tom is actually suggesting I do this for my own OKCupid dating profile? Maybe he should rewrite mine…?

I’ve also helped copy edit people’s online dating profiles. And I’ve seen plenty of crap online dating profiles too. These hints are derived from some of the stupid shit I’ve seen.

  1. Basic spelling. You are a 36-year-old and you talk about how you want to go out for a “coughie”. What’s that sound? Oh yes, the sudden penile deflation of every man who actually finished primary school. Grab a dictionary, grab Google, grab Wikipedia, whatever. You aren’t writing a dissertation, you are writing a few paragraphs. There’s no reason not to get the spelling accurate.
  2. You aren’t a teenager anymore. I’m not one of these people who gets all huffy about teenagers writing “im” and “cu l8r” and all that in their texts. But if you are old enough to have an OKCupid profile, you are old enough to not write in textspeak. Do all that stuff your English teacher taught you: spaces after full stops, commas between items in lists, apostrophes, the capital “I” in “I’m” and “I’ll” etc.
  3. No LOL. “I like beer lol”: I saw that on a goddamn profile. You are laughing out loud about the fact that you enjoy drinking beer? LOL is fine in chat. It’s not fine in your profile. If you’ve written something that’s actually funny, you don’t need “lol”. And if you aren’t saying something funny, “lol” won’t make it funny.
  4. This one’s for the straight guys: yes, I get it. Saying that you are a “vagina inspector” or a “trainee gynecologist” is what you consider hilarious banter with the slack-jawed cretins you so affectionately call “mates”. Well, I consulted my friends with vaginas and they tell me that you probably won’t get any pussy if you put that crap on your profiles. In addition, you make all men—straight and gay—look like horrible, insufferable wankstains. Just sayin’. Don’t say sexist, racist or homophobic shit in your profile: ignorance isn’t attractive to anyone, it just makes you look insecure. There’s a time and place for moronic banter—actually, no, wait, no there isn’t. Grow the fuck up and read a book.
  5. You don’t need the abbreviations. Yes, you might be seeking some NSA S&M with a 24/M/UK GWM. (Aren’t we all?) There are circumstances where that kind of thing might be appropriate (hookup sites) but on a dating profile, you don’t need all this clutter. You are trying to find a human being, not a home cinema system, even if you are only going to, err, tweak their Dolby Digital Surround for one night only.
  6. You are from California, not “california” or “cali”. Proper names need capital letters. Go on, you can take the time to write out the full name of the city. “London” not “LDN”, “Atlanta” not “ATL”. See previous point about abbreviations. Abbreviations are bad enough, dumb abbreviations have no place in your profile.
  7. Cut the lists out. I saw a gay guy’s dating profile recently that had a section heading with a list of items, each suffixed with “= turn off”. On this list, he had smokers, heavy drinkers and sex addicts. Okay, there’s no problem with having preferences (although wanting men who aren’t sex addicts might limit the pool somewhat), but if he had written a paragraph instead of a list, it would come off much better: more like a human wrote it and less like it’s a warning sign next to a parking meter. When there are negatives you want to exclude, rather than making a list of turn offs or forbidden characteristics, write a short paragraph trying to turn that into a description of what you do want. Like “I want to meet people who don’t smoke, don’t drink to excess and can think about things other than sex.” It still comes off a bit weird, but a lot less harsh and checklist-ey than writing a list.
  8. Match your text to your picture. I saw a hilarious Grindr screenshot recently of a big ol’ dick pic (Grindr is not known for subtlety) with the words underneath “Not seeking NSA”. Sorry, what, you’ve got a picture of your dick as your profile but you don’t want no-strings attached hookups? Are you shitting me?! Work out what message you are sending with the pictures and then make sure that what you are writing doesn’t contradict that message.
  9. Don’t attempt poetry. You will probably suck at it. And because of the Dunning–Kruger effect, you’ll never know quite how much you suck at it.
  10. Don’t get over-romantic. Again, you will probably suck at it. Don’t talk about wanting a partner to “complete” you, unless perhaps you want an inflation fetishist who knows the Aristophanes passage from Plato’s Symposium off by heart.All the spiritual shit about wanting to live forever together with flowers and rainbows and ponies everywhere? Cut that right out. You’ll probably be telling me next that you want to tune into my fucking chakras. No, no, the point is showing that you are a nice, non-psychopathic, down to earth person, the sort of person who you’d like to share a drink or a meal with, not that you are desperately seeking a missing puzzle piece from your self-indulgent personal development plan.
  11. Show, don’t tell. I’ve helped people I know write personal statements for university applications. Dating profiles are more personal, obviously, but the rule applies. People go on about how they are “passionate” about something: opera, reading, fondue cookery. Whatever. Don’t tell them that, show them that. What do you do? How do you do it? Where do you do it? “I’m passionate about windsurfing” becomes “I’ve gone windsurfing at places X, Y and Z”. “I’m really into music”? Yeah, so is everyone. Talk about the bands and genres you like and talk about how you are really excited by this band’s new album or went to this other band’s show.
  12. Get someone else—preferably someone who can write—to read it before you post it. Yes, yes, you are embarrassed to tell your friends that you are using online dating… well, get the fuck over yourselves, 21% of Americans do it, it’s not like telling them you are gay (oh, wait, actually, if you are using the phrase “throbbing hot rod”, they might suspect something). Anyway, if the are going to judge you, at least you’ve given them a legitimate reason to judge you, namely your terrible grammar. If you can, get a friend of the gender it is aimed at to read it.

There is much more that can be said but maybe best left for another day’s Relationships 2.0.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.