If you like Piña Coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga
If you have half a brain
If you’d like making love at midnight
In the dunes on the Cape
Then I’m the love that you’ve looked for
Write to me and escape.
- “Escape”, by Rupert Holmes
One of the single largest make-or-break components when creating a successful online personal ad is the Profile. This bit of writing is supposed to give the reader, your potential match, enough information about you to create an illusion of knowing you, without telling him or her enough to scare them away. The pictures you post are supposed to complement the profile, while giving an accurate idea of how you look now – not some fuzzy lighted “Glamor Shot”, and definitely not a picture from 20 years ago. It seems like this would be an easy enough task to complete, but you might be surprised at how quickly everything can go wrong based on misuse and misunderstanding of these two little features.
If I had a dime for every profile I have read so far where the guy writing said the last book he’d read was Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (which, hello – came out in 2003!); where the guy WROTE EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE HE THOUGHT IT WAS EASIER TO READ (please, stop shouting at me, I am not deaf!); where the guy said he was most thankful for: air, water, food, and land (I mean…seriously?); where the guy published photos that were so small I had to squint, or photos where he was hidden behind a desk, or where he was drinking (urgh), or where he was wearing no shirt; or profiles where the guy said that he would “tell [me] later“, when quite frankly? If you can’t tell me now there will be no later!; then I would have enough to purchase a really nice meal for all of us on a night out with my girls.
So, as you have probably figured out, this installment is going to cover writing a profile that will make you stand out in a good way, put the essence of “you” out there, and hopefully not cause enough damage that prince or princess charming will hit the “close” button before any contact has occurred.
I think it only suitable that we show some bad profiles first, and it seems only proper that I start off with my friend Mike Cane’s classic post, the one that he proudly emailed me almost immediately after posting…
I will be extremely supportive.
I will commiserate deeply as you labor in the Corporate Suitpit …
… while I stay at home and torment myself at a keyboard.
When you come home, I will rip off your pinstripes …
… and ravage you on a fur rug.
Mind you, you must have the house and the fur rug ready …
… before I move in with you.
So when you email your vitae along with a picture of yourself …
… (preferably naked), you can jump ahead of the line by also including a photo of the house and fur rug.
Ah, the bliss that awaits us!
[You must read it on his site with pictures for full effect, of course.]
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that I was the one (via email, and then mentioned in the comments section) who said “but what’s in it for ME?” Mike’s reply was “HAHAHAHAHAHA. You can wash the rug!”
Yep; that’s why Mike and I are such good email buddies…we keep it very real.
Writing a good profile shouldn’t be too difficult – especially for someone who writes every day, and yet it’s the part where I got stumped. It seemed so artificial to me to put all this information about myself out there and up front.
Off the top of my head: Type-A perfectionist who has an unnatural fascination with gadgets, shoes, Louis Vuitton accessories, little sports cars, and things with blinking LEDs. A girl who tends to stress about everything and nothing when a deadline is approaching, who gets irritated easily when people are stupid, a girl who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Someone who is intensely private but has a very public online life. Someone who is looking for perfection…and who refuses to settle.
Oh yeah, that will attract men like flies.
Describe my perfect match? Someone with a good job that he enjoys and takes pride in; someone who is as intelligent as he thinks he is (or even more so; please?!), someone who doesn’t look to me to keep him entertained 24/7, someone who has his own life and plenty of stories to keep me entertained when we are sharing; someone who is entertained by my stories; someone I can miss when he is gone; someone who misses me when I am gone; someone who doesn’t lie about his marital state; someone who is most definitely not “all hat and no horse.”
Ummm…yeah. Like anyone from outside of West Texas was going to “get” that. Maybe there is a good reason I had so readily accepted being a singleton.
Profile text is the #1 thing I’d use to weed/attract. – Wayne
I’ll admit right now that beside the public nature of Match.com, the other factor that turned me off to the service was the heavy reliance on the “in your own words” section. Not so much because I couldn’t effectively convey my “wants” and “don’t wants”, but because reading other peoples’ began to just depress me. It’s not just that they didn’t bother to proof their writing for proper grammar or spelling, but it was the desperation I could feel emanating from some of the profiles. I think it’s a given that if you are on an online dating site, then you have made a statement that you are a little bit lonely and are looking outside of your regular dating pool. Some of the profiles I would read made it seem as if the writer would even consider other planets.
But as usual, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
Besides (and I mentioned that already), with your looks, it makes me wonder why the guys don’t queue up in front of your door I certainly would. – Wolfgang, 51 [IRC]
Flattery from Wolfgang aside, the fact of the matter was that just because guys might queue up at my door, they probably wouldn’t be guys that I would want standing on my front porch. How to weed out the losers, then?
The answer started with a list. My friend Drew (TrvlngDrew here on our site) and I had been corresponding for a bit about our search for the perfect partner, and he had shared a spreadsheet with me that he had created. The sheet listed what was acceptable and expected for an agreeable meeting (including instant deal-breakers), a short-term relationship, and a long-term relationship. As I read his list, and started filling in my own criteria, I realized that actually listing these things made it very easy to begin a rudimentary profile as well as create a process for excluding unsatisfactory profiles I would encounter. When you know what you want, it’s much easier to recognize what you don’t want. And when you cut out the BS, what’s left is what’s important; so I had to first understand that.
The first part of the process was filling out the profile questionnaire. Almost every site has something similar, some very general and some very specific; I’ll show the one from Match.com just to give you an idea of what one of these looks like…
Filling out information on Match consists of answering the following profile questions…
Some of the questions are sooo lame. “What’s my sign?” I mean, how 1978 is that? I guess its inclusion does give you an instant way to cut some of the chaff however; because if you don’t believe in Astrology, then you can immediately pass on some guy who lists “Pisces” as if it were something to be proud of.
The Body Art part bugs me; I think it is a bit forward to talk about your piercings or tattoos before actually meeting someone, especially if they are aren’t readily visible. If modifications come up as a possible deal-breaker for someone after you have been on a few dates, then they weren’t a good match for you anyway…and they don’t need to see your art.
“What’s your best feature?” After you’ve read a few posted profiles, you’ll smirk when you see how many people reply “My butt”.
Here’s where the writing skills come in handy. You have a few boxes which can accept short answers about things you like and enjoy.
As an example of profile text that works – I’d ALWAYS write about things that I did with the kids – but in a funny way. One particularly popular paragraph dealt with the fun of selling wrapping paper for the kids. Writing text that is both funny and VERY detailed and specific about your life tends to cut out the curiosity seekers and weirdos from responding. The more detail you provide, the easier it is for other people to decide whether they match to you. It’s shocking how many people write the same stuff!! <zzzzzZ> – Wayne
I know that some of these questions are good ice-breakers, and ought to be out there so people can decide whether or not you are interesting enough to contact; but some of these just seem so artificial. For instance, “What’s the last thing you read?” Why not just admit that you are too busy to read instead of listing a five year old book?
The best way to learn about online dating and to make your profile stand out is to read the profile of your competition. If you’re a guy — go and read other guy’s. If you’re a girl. Go read other girls. Then make sure you don’t make your profile read like theirs. – Wayne
The most important thing to do throughout the entire profile Q&A is to tell the truth. If you don’t hunt or fish, if you don’t read, if you know nothing about politics or sports, then why would you set yourself up for disappointment by fishing for a match who thinks that you like these things? Simply tell the truth about what you like doing now; should you become a win connoisseur later, you can certainly update your profile.
Match is king of the hill (at least in CT) once you realize that “new profiles” are greatly prized and you need to distinguish yourself with both good profile text and clear photos. – Wayne
I wonder how many people really tell the truth here about their eating and exercise habits, drinking, smoking, and income?
Faith is probably one of the hinkiest things I’ve noticed on these dating sites. You’ll get a guy who says he is “Spiritual but not religious,” but then every other word in his profile will be about God; or you will get a woman who says she is a “Christian / Catholic,” but then she’ll post multiple pictures where she is posed provocatively in a boob-enhancing tank top. Once again, you should just tell the truth here. If you are a Atheist, then say so; don’t worry about offending a Christian – let her know up front that she will be unequally yoked and vice versa. If you present yourself as one thing, then keep things consistent.
I wish I could have checked more than one box in this section…but alas; I only know English.
Look at enough pictures online and I guarantee people start to look all alike. – Wayne
I think it is probably advisable to check the top button, saying you only want to see matches with photos. Even though Wayne is correct that everyone will eventually start to look the same, it is also imperative that you be able to weed out those who have easily recognizable personal deal-breakers. Have an issue with facial hair on women, then you’ll want to see if she has a mustache; prefer good oral hygiene and straight teeth? Look for an open, full smile. Want someone who is fit? Look for recent full-length photos.
If, like me, you prefer to date a man who is taller than you – then say so! I am 5’10″, or at least 6′ with heels, so a 6′ or taller man was my ideal. No settling, remember?
Once again, it is imperative to tell the truth. If you do not like scrawny women, then don’t check “slender”. Do not be afraid of “About Average” as it is a great catch-all when you aren’t really sure what category you are or that you want.
FYI – I listed myself as “About Average”.
If education matters, then say so – and don’t lie about your own.
Be open to professions you might not ordinarily consider, but don’t check anything you have a true problem with. If you have a minimum income level your potential match should meet, then state it. If you have issues with making more or less than your mate, then be specific, and mark it as “Absolutely Important.”
Ooooh – the smoking and drinking questions. Whatever you do, do not cheat on answering these truthfully both for yourself and your potential match. If you are not a smoker, and you would prefer a non-smoker, then why would you compromise and date someone who smokes like a chimney? In the end you will only be miserable. The same goes for a smoker accepting a non-smoker. Why put yourself through that?
Remember that the older you are, and when I say that I mean older than 30, the more likely it is that your potential matches will have been in previous committed relationships. If you can’t accept someone who is “currently separated”, “widowed” or “divorced”, then you will be substantially chopping into your potential dating pool.
Children can also be an important sticking point; if you do not like children, then don’t torture a potential match by saying you would date someone with kids that sometimes live at home. If you do not want children, then admit it and don’t give someone false hope that you might change your mind.
This one bugs me; I haven’t put my finger on exactly why yet, but it does…
My pet peeve is people with profiles about how they’re so funny and love to laugh — and there isn’t one humorous thing about their photo or profile. – Wayne
Ah, and we’re off…this is where it becomes imperative to put together a fluid and interesting couple of profile statements. As I mentioned before, Match.com relies heavily upon the written profile; in a moment I will show you the difference between a Match.com profile and an eHarmony version.
eHarmony is a blessing and a curse with their profile text. It’s easy for people who don’t know what to say. But when you’re literate – it’s a very limiting format. – Wayne
Here are the eHarmony profile written questions; yep – you get a teaser, as I actually filled these questions in…
You’ll notice that #1 asks for what I am most passionate about. I am sure that they meant one thing, but please…
Yeah, I sound really good…bet you want to date me, huh? Oh, if you only knew…what a pain in the butt I am!
Pay special attention to #12. When I get to “The Experience” portion of this review, two installments from now, you’ll see that I got a very pleasant surprise.
Here were my “must haves”:
And here were my “can’t stands”:
I used three photos in my profile, and they should all be familiar to GD readers:
Here’s one of Wayne’s suggestions that I broke…
If you can find a full length candid (which I’m sure you can) I’d recommend adding it — I think three is the minimum and they should be the mix I had before — you should always have a full length one if for no other reason than a lot of women don’t and it leaves people to wonder what’s hidden. – Wayne
I figured that I could send a full-length picture to someone if they asked for it. Otherwise, they could see the same photos that all of Gear Diary’s visitors have already.
I’m a sucker for good candids – especially when they tie into the profile text. – Wayne
Wow…I bet you feel like you really got to know me just now, huh?
In January, 2006, I set up a profile, filled out the questionnaire(which seemed to take hours), and then the waiting game began. I did not put any limitations on “who” or “where”. Almost immediately, I started getting matches. I am assuming that eHarmony matches you with people who had similar answers on their questionnaire. I really only communicated with one person before Steven and that communication was through eharmony. I was matched up with Steven sometime around February 1st. Almost immediately, I felt a connection. The fact that he lived in Texas was a bonus because I had spent the first 32 years of my life in the harsh Canadian winters. We did our communicating through eHarmony within two days. Then emailed back and forth, then talked on the phone. What amazed and impressed me most was that Steven had no hesitation in meeting me. I knew that he was as serious about finding “the one” as I was. We sent some pictures back and forth and I thought to myself how cute he was but every picture he sent was him with an animal he killed. I hadn’t really been exposed to that before and was interested to know more. I also liked the fact that hunting was such a big part of his life and he included that in his picture. He didn’t take a “fake” photo, but one that showed the real him. So, needless to say, I was impressed before we met face to face. – June, 34 [eHarmony]
In the past few weeks, I have seen so many personal ads where the descriptions were so poorly worded, the person’s thoughts so badly pieced together, and the grammar so unfortunate that I gave the writers just a cursory glance.My best piece of advice when writing a profile is to let another person, perhaps an objective friend, take a glance. Ask them to be honest, and to let you know if anything said freaks them out or makes you sound like a loser.
For the record, Wayne was my objective friend.
And he also has some great tips on writing profiles…
I dated a woman for two years and nearly became remarried based on an introduction that occurred via the free Craigslist site. The funny thing is that my profile was not a profile. I had a photo of an old guy dressed in a Walmart shopping bag (this was pulled from a news story about how a greeter was fired from Walmart for passing out his photo) and the vast majority of the profile went on to talk about how everyday life would be different if online profiles were true. – Wayne
The fabulous profile that he used? Behold…
There’s not a bigger lie in the online universe than “friends first”. Pleeez. If everyone said what they
really meant, they’d just write “let me get a good look at you in person” and then I’ll decide whether to
see you again or whether to disappear never to be heard of again.
There has to be more to this online dating than people that disappear, aged photos of shirtless guys in
front of their beater cars, cliche filled profiles, past flames that never extinguish, guys who don’t call,
endless coffee dates with those professional daters hunting their next great conquest. If only seven
percent of what was written online were true – there would be a waiting room at every gym, gas prices
would plummet as men and women hop on their motorcycles instead of driving honking four ton SUVs,
the self-help industry would be obsolete (due to the great communication skills between men and
women – aka soulmates), hiking trails would be so crowded they’d add toll booths and impose single file
walking rules, movie theaters would be bankrupt as couples spoon and cuddle to rented movies instead
of going out. And of course there would be no more bars — because everyone is so sick of that scene. So
about me? My friends say I look just like my pictures (hehe). I enjoy hiking, working out at the gym 7 or
8 days each week and reading The Davinci Code and He’s Just Not That into You. For fun I like to go
out or stay in — though I’m equally at ease in a tuxedo or jeans.
I enjoy pretty much all the outdoor activites, hiking, biking, walking and SCUBA diving (warm water
preferred). My kids are entering school and I would match up best with someone who both has children
of their own and can never figure out which side of the credit card to swipe at the checkout counter.
this is in or around Hartford
I think that profile would definitely catch someone’s attention.
I got divorced in 2002 after being married for 14 years. Needless to say I was way out of touch in the updated ways of meeting ladies let alone what to do once I did. So I decided to join Match.Com and give it a try. What I found was that it was great batting practice. It got me out there meeting people and developing my personal communication skills which had been honed to one individual. I had to learn how to impart my personality, humour, intellect, general likeability, and easy going nature through email. Quite a task! For us techie types it is a good way to go because we are comfortable with the medium and can get over some of the initial awkwardness in that space. Also if you didn’t really match or did a misstep then it was really easy to just say Next!I met several ladies and dated them a few times but didn’t find the chemistry I needed to keep dating them..Then it got interesting.. I went overseas..I joined Match.Com in England and found it was very helpful in improving my social life and expanding what I could learn about Europe. I met ladies in England, France, Belgium, and Netherlands. This was a very enlightening experience as dating in Europe is a much different style than we employ in the US, its much more casual without being goal driven towards marriage for many years, but with a strong emotional attachment. Once again batting practice so that when I actually met someone I was truly interested in I would be in shape and avoid the stupid mistakes. Email didn’t work here at all, everything was in person or on the phone.Time Out: Met famous English lady on airplane, chatted her up and we were very close for several years.. Batting practice is what helped the most, I was in shape and ready!On to Australia.. Complete different culture than Europe, of course, so I joined RSVP.COM.AU and met one lady who has become one of my closest friends down here in Sydney. We see each other every couple of weeks for drinks, dinner, coffee and do a catch up but we didn’t have the chemistry. We are both in other relationships but still greatly enjoy each other’s perspectives and have similar backgrounds in expat life. I must admit that in AU, being an American is like being a magnet, no problem at all meeting ladies once they hear your accent so didn’t participate in on-line dating for long.So my sound bite on on-line dating: Do it! Get out there and get in dating shape, you might meet the right person you might not, it will keep you active and get you in shape for meeting the individual that is right for you. – Drew, 49 [Match.com, RSVP.com.au]
I guess the biggest thing I would like to leave you with after reading this installment is this: When writing your profile, be original, be entertaining, be yourself…but most of all be truthful.
Next in this series: “Online Dating: Do’s and Don’ts”.
Previously in this series: Online Dating: Choosing a Site