What To Put On A Dating Site Profile… And What To Leave Out
Your dating site profile is the most important tool you have to find love online—and fast. It’s the identity that you put forward to other online daters, it’s what people see when they’re looking for people like you and it’s all you’ve got to make a first impression and pull in the proposals.
While its true that outstanding photos are the key to online dating success, a well written dating profile makes a difference too. In this 3 part series on profile writing tips we’ll show you how to get it right!
It’s not an exaggeration to say that all that lies between you and the end of your single days is partly to do with the skill with which you complete your profile.
The kind of information that you’ll be asked to reveal about yourself will vary from service to service. Dating sites put a huge amount of effort into coming up with the right questions to make matching easy without putting off new members. Some sites for example, will ask you to tick just a handful of boxes and write one short paragraph. Others will have section after section that grill you about your personality, your interests, your hopes and your history.
Fill it all in
In general, it’s a good idea to complete all the sections of a dating site profile however many they may be. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting and you can certainly come back to fill in the gaps later, but as long as you have spaces in your profile that remain unfilled you can give the impression of looking evasive and less than completely serious.
The good news
The good news is that the bulk of the profile won’t take long to complete. Even the most demanding sites don’t ask you to write more than three or four mini-compositions about yourself and your ideal date, and the majority of just about any dating site profile is always a series of checkboxes about your likes and dislikes and mostly they help the site’s matching engine far more than the dater looking for a match. The fact that someone likes jazz more than rock, or comedies more than documentaries, doesn’t really tell you whether they’re going to like you—or whether you’re going to like them.
A few checkboxes though are important. When you come to tell the world the age range of the person you’re looking for, it’s important to be realistic. Many men in particular like to think that because there are so many women on the Internet, they can use it as a way to meet women half their age. That’s not impossible but at best it’s going to need a long wait and at worst, it’s going to be a complete waste of time.
All sorts of people
Online dating can bring all sorts of people together. It can certainly match people up who are looking for something very specific—and even a little unusual. But when you begin looking for someone online, you want your dating profile to be as inclusive as possible. Once the emails come in, you can then start to focus on the most attractive responses. If you’d like to meet someone in their early twenties for example but would also be happy with someone in their mid-thirties then it’s best to choose a wide age range that casts a big net than focus on one particular group and change when you feel you’re not having any luck.
When it comes to describing your own age range though, honesty is always the best policy. There’s always a temptation for online daters in their early-somethings to shave a few years off and slip back into an earlier decade. It happens a lot (and it’s a good reason to be suspicious of people who claim to be aged 29 or 38 etc.) But it’s just not worth it. At some point you will have to spill the beans and spilling them in front of someone you really want to impress is far worse than being honest to someone you haven’t met and might never meet. If the passing single really doesn’t want to date someone your age, it’s best not to meet them at all than date them and get the rejection face-to-face.
How To Write Descriptions That Stand Out From The Crowd
You shouldn’t really have to think about the tick-boxes too much. What you will have to think about though—before you even begin typing your description in the text-box—is what you want passing online singles to know about you right from the beginning.
Just about every dating site—even those with minimal profiles—have space for you to write about yourself and the person you’d like to date.
This is one of the most important parts of the profile. It’s the one chance you get to use your own voice and describe exactly what makes you tick and what you’d like to make your heart tick faster. How you describe yourself, the parts of your personality you choose to describe and the words and phrases you use to put yourself forward can either help you stand out from the online crowd or make you look like just another online hopeful.
A description that attracts singles, invites emails and gets your dating life rolling faster.
It’s important to remember that whatever you mention on a profile will always look far more important than it does in real life. You carry a whole range of different identities, characteristics, likes and dislikes. When you meet someone, they meet the whole package at once; no one aspect of who you are dominates. When someone sees your profile, they only see what you choose to put on it—and those few facts will paint completely their picture of you.
Be careful on what you focus
If you mention specifically that you’re a vegetarian for example, meat-eaters will assume that you’ve mentioned it because you don’t want to date one of them. After all, why did you highlight what you eat and not the fact that you like reading thrillers or watching CNN? If you say that you’re a conservative, liberals will believe that you’re only looking for a small-government type, otherwise why bother putting your political views front and center?
Because they don’t know anything else about you, readers will assume that what they see on the profile is not just one part of you, but the most important part of you.
That means before you even begin filling in the spaces, you have to decide which parts of your life you want to highlight and which parts you want to hold back and slip into the conversation during the first date.
Some things will always be worth highlighting
Such as the fact that you have a child at home or that you have a disability or that you spend every spare minute looking after an aged parent. Parts of your life that you can’t negotiate should certainly be included on your profile and not hidden. That way your profile won’t just be a net to catch free-floating singles, it will also have holes big enough to let out the fish that you wouldn’t want to waste your time trying to catch anyway. If someone isn’t looking to become a stand-in parent, it’s best to let them know that that’s included in the job description right from the beginning.
Picking out the other characteristics to include in your self-description though is a little trickier. You only have a few hundred words to give potential dates a taste of who you are, and while that’s very little space to sum up your entire personality, it does keep the whole thing mercifully short.
The easiest way
The easiest way to write a great description is to use a tight structure that covers the most important parts of your personality, lets people know a little bit about you—and makes them curious to find out more.
The most basic structure you can use has three short paragraphs. The first paragraph will talk about your work—the part of most people’s life that takes the most time; the second paragraph will discuss what you do in your free time; and the third paragraph will talk about your personality:
I work as a tax attorney but I try not to talk about work too often. Few people let me. The work is actually less boring than it sounds and there are times I even catch myself wide awake in the office. I promise not to discuss work on a first date (unless, of course, you insist.)
Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who can call my work my hobby. My hobby is sailing. I have a fifteen-foot boat that I take out on the sound most weekends. There’s room — and sail-work — enough for two and the views of the town from the sea are fantastic. If you’ve ever fancied taking a slow, very cramped, boat to China, I’m sure we could arrange something.
I find that I laugh at an odd mixture of things. Tom and Jerry still cracks me up, but so does Groucho Marx, the captions in the Economist and Section 342, Paragraph c of the corporate tax code. (That one makes milk come out of my nose). I do laugh a lot, but I also listen a lot too and I get a kick of helping when I can. I can be thoughtful, passionate, inhibited, sensitive and opinionated — but only in a nice way.
That’s a basic model for an effective self-description.
The first paragraph answers the first question that most people ask when they meet someone new: “What do you do?”
You don’t have to go into great detail—and it’s rarely a good idea to go into detail—but describing your occupation is an easy way to introduce yourself and get the description rolling. You should also describe how you feel about your job (remember, no one’s going to know who you are so there’s no danger that your boss will read it and make you change your description to ‘unemployed’). But you should still stay positive; no one likes to go out with a whiner. If you don’t like your job, you can say something like: “Right now I’m working in sanitation so I’d be a liar if I didn’t say my job stinks. It does. But it’s fine until I finish medical school and can start treating sick people. (I promise to wash my hands first).” If you’ve got nothing good to say about your job—or you don’t have one—then the best bet is to say nothing and talk about the job you’d like to do.
For the second paragraph, simply pick the one activity that takes up most of your spare time. It doesn’t matter what that activity might be. In general, good—and easy—topics for this paragraph include your favorite sports activity, your top-choice hiking destination or the place you most like to kill an afternoon with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Be honest. If your evenings, weekends and holidays seem to be filled with reruns of I Love Lucy or trips to the zoo with your son, don’t try to hide it. You can mention it, boast about or make a joke about it. On the other hand if you’re a bit embarrassed by the fact that your spare time seems to be eaten up by the Playboy channel, you can pick the activity that takes up the second largest amount of free time.
The one general rule that’s always worth keeping here is to be as specific as possible. Don’t say “I like reading”; say “I like reading the early novels of Zhang Ailing — she’s a bit maudlin but I just love her introspection.” Instead of saying “I like to spend Saturdays hiking,” say: “On Saturdays, I tend to head up around Los Olivos, taste a bit of wine and see if I can wear a hole in my boots.” The more specific your description, the more you’ll give a taste of who you are and not just what you like to do.
The third paragraph of this model is the toughest. It’s always hard to pick out aspects of your personality and character and describe them. It’s almost unnatural. No one ever does this. You might tell someone what you like to do in your spare time. You almost certainly tell people what you do for a living. But only for matchmaking services are you expected to describe your personality; usually people make their own minds up—and then keep their opinions to themselves.
There is always a temptation here to begin by saying, “Friends say that I’m…” or “I’ve been known to be…”. It’s an easy solution but it’s a bit dull and shows a lack of imagination. Probably about half of all dating site profiles grab at that straw. A better bet is to grab the bull by the horns.
A positive impression
Starting by talking about what makes you laugh is always a good way to make a positive impression. Again, be specific and cover the full range. If slapstick makes you giggle, put it down. If Woody Allen gets you going, put that down too. It doesn’t just tell a potential date what kind of humor they can expect from you, it also tells them that you’re the kind of person who laughs easily.
To round the description off, you can pick up a thesaurus and find yourself a handful of cool descriptions that describe the bits you didn’t cover. Steer clear of the kind of boring clichés that you can find on just about every profile. Using the kind of words that people don’t use every day shows off your education, moves you out of the pack and makes your profile a more interesting read.
A profile like this is pretty straightforward. An alternative method is to be a little more creative. Instead of using three paragraphs, you can do the whole description in two, starting with a general comparison before moving onto a specific event that gives an idea of who you are:
I’ve always wanted to have the cool sophistication of Cary Grant, the laid-back loucheness of Johhny Depp and general oddness of Ewan McGreggor. I think I just got the oddness right but without landing the nifty accent.
It’s probably because I’ve never been to Scotland. I have been to Africa though. I spent a year there with the Peace Corps digging wells for villages. They took us to holes in the middle of nowhere and made us dig more holes in the middle of nowhere. I’ve never seen so many people made so happy by something so simple. If I could spend the rest of my life making people that happy, I would be a very happy man too.
Again, this is a very simple model that’s very easy to copy. It contains just two ideas but that’s enough to attract interest.
The first paragraph
For the first paragraph, try to think of three celebrities that you resemble or would like to resemble. That will leave the reader not just with some idea of who you are but who you’d like to be and the kind of style you admire.
The second paragraph
For the second paragraph, pick one incident in your life that you found particularly meaningful. Ideally, it should be something unique and interesting: the most fascinating thing that you ever did in your life. If you once climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, then find an excuse to write about it. If you took a cruise to Antarctica and it made you think deeply about the environment, write about that too
Remember though, this one event is going to stand for your entire personality and leave a lasting impression in the reader’s mind, so whatever you write about it has to be something that made you the person you are.
If you say that your service in Desert Storm led you to think deeply about international conflict and led you to return to school in order to study international relations, anyone who writes to you after reading your profile will want to meet that internationally engaged person. If you’ve changed your mind since then, there’s a good chance that your first date is going to be a little disappointing for both sides.
Try to think of one event in your life that sums up your personality, and writing your self-description should be a breeze.
A third way to write your self-description is to toss out the rule-book altogether. Instead of talking about yourself the way the dating site would like you to do, by laying out your details in neat paragraphs and sentences that lead from one to the next (just as we’ve described so far), you could interview yourself.
Think of five (or so) questions that you wish the site had asked and which you can answer easily, and list them in the self description:
Best thing I’ve ever said:
“What about Zambia?”
My biggest regret:
Agreeing to go to Florida instead of Zambia.
My favorite book:
Used to be Dr. Zhivago but lately I’ve been leaning away from the Russians. Probably now The Rock by Kanan Makiya.
Person I’d most like to have lunch with:
Gandhi. He was vegetarian like me. But he didn’t eat much so we could share.
Person I’d most like to be:
Kofi Annan because I like meeting people from around the world and I’m sure he has more influence than he’s letting on.
The biggest Advantage
The biggest advantage of using this model is that you get to say more by writing less. Each answer is just one sentence so you don’t have to beat your head against the wall trying to come up with nice flowing paragraphs. The questions also say as much about you as the answers and because you’re only going to ask questions that you can answer well, this kind of model doesn’t take long to write. Finally, on a site stuffed with paragraph descriptions your mini-interview should help you stand out as a creative thinker.
Think About This!
Before you get a date you need to attract someone special!
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