Write a Better Online Personal Ad
By Tracy Brant at Dateable.com

If you are going to invest time or money in using a matchmaking website, you should really pay some attention to writing a profile that will get you some responses. People will not be interested in emailing you if you do not do something to make yourself stand out from the masses of people using personal ads.

I administer several dating websites. People frequently write in saying, "I never get any replies to my ad." And when I go look at the ad, I find that they have not filled out the profile, or added a photo. Who can tell if they want to email you if there is no information? Not quite as bad, but still ineffective, is a profile that says, "Email me for details" or "looking for a nice person." You can't bother to write a paragraph to find the love of your life? Or even a fun date for the weekend?

Here are some guidelines for writing effective personal ad blurbs:

INVESTMENT. Decide that this is worth spending some time on, or don't bother. You wouldn't submit a sloppy resume, would you? This is about making a good first impression, because there will be no second chance once someone clicks to the next ad.

MARKETING. You are marketing yourself... trying to stand out in a crowd. You are the "product." and the people you want to meet are your customers. Think about who you want to meet, and then think about who THEY want to meet! How can you tell them that YOU are the person they want to meet? Magazine ads, for example, grab your attention, make you laugh, they make you think, "wow, what a great thing... I want to buy it." They can be short, but pack a punch. If they are long, they tell a good story. Marketers test their different ad campaigns, and you should, too. Try placing different ads to see what gets you a better result.

PREPARATION. Before you log in anywhere, do some thinking and writing. Don't wait until you are faced with a blinking cursor to write your blurb. Give serious thought to how you will describe yourself and the person you hope to find. Write at least two paragraphs, one about yourself, and one about the person you seek. Ask someone you trust to read those paragraphs and comment on how well they reflect who you are and what you want. Save that text to cut and paste into dating website forms. Have a digital photo or two ready.

OPENING LINES. Use your username... don't be Bob3456... be PaintBallPrincess or SecretSuperHero or something else that reflects your sense of humour and yourself. If the ad allows you a "subject line" also use that well... "Need woman in Halifax" doesn't cut it. "Brighouse man on a mission" sounds more interesting. "Todmorden Knight seeks his Queen, tells a different story about who you are seeking. Use your username and subject line to hook people into your ad. Use humour, drama, and a funky metaphor. Then, like any good ad, you want to show them you are what they need, show them why you are unique, and invite them to take action... by emailing you!

DETAILS. Write in complete sentences. Spelling and grammar DO count. We have modern tools to help with that. You want to look like you find this task important enough to spell out the words. Unless you are 15 years old, writing "If u r inrested n me, wrt 2 me" makes you LOOK 15 years old. USING ALL CAPS IS LIKE SHOUTING... don't. It is actually harder to read.

HONESTY. If you are not honest with yourself and others, you will not find happiness in the personals. Are you married? You know, people CAN figure that out and will resent the lie more than the wedding ring. Without making any value judgements, putting down "married" will not necessarily stop you from finding matches. If you are just looking for a casual date, don't imply that you are looking for marriage just to get more email... it wastes everyone's time. If you are looking for a long-term thing, don't think you can "convince" a casual date to spend more time with you. You are asking for disappointment. Try completing this sentence: "In a year, I'd like to see us doing...."

STRINGS. Guys, I see many you making a crucial mistake in your profiles. You will find that women are seldom looking for a "no strings relationship." There simply is no such thing... if it is a relationship; it has strings of SOME sort. If you don't want strings, you are looking for an escort service. Women of any description can find casual physical relationships without lifting a finger to a keyboard. Don't lie, but think about which "strings" are okay with you. "Seeking Torrid Summer Romance" is fine and honest. So is, "I am not eager to move in or get married. I want to have a regular date for parties and cookouts with my friends." Ladies, this counts for you, too. If your personal ad sounds like you might be offering paid sexual services, you are going to get some rude offers. You might avoid phrases like, "looking for a wealthy man with good taste in jewellery."

BEYOND PHYSICAL. Have you ever really dated someone just for their eye colour? OK, maybe you have spectacular eyeballs. But ads tend to reel off personal stats... and then stop there, as though there were nothing but a body. Most personal sites let you click things to describe your eyes, hair, and height... don't waste valuable profile space on your hair. Talk about who you are first, and what you look like at the end. Want to know the number one thing surveyed women look for in a guy? A sense of humour.

AVOID NEGATIVES. This is not the place to list all the things that drove you crazy about your ex and how you won't put up with that again. Don't list what you don't want... discuss what you DO want. Turn your own lifestyle quirks into positives, not obstacles. Workaholic? Try, "My career keeps me very busy, so I need someone with a flexible schedule for spontaneous one-day adventures." Frugal to a fault? Try "I find it amusing to squeeze a nickel 'til it screams... help me research for my web column "CheapDates for CheapSkates." Worried people will regard your children as an obstacle? "My family is very important to me and I hope to find someone that will enjoy the attention of a warm family circle."

POST A PHOTO. Website statistics show that an ad with a photo is 80% more likely to get a response. A photo that shows you relaxed and having fun, no matter what you look like, is even better. Don't use a photo that isn't current. It isn't worth looking so insecure, or being rejected later. Don't rush to ask for a photo... you may look like a "pic trader," someone who is collecting photos rather than looking for a real date. Don't stress about your looks... attraction is about more than looks. Yes, we often are first attracted to someone by looks, when we meet in person. But on the Internet, if you seem like a jerk, you won't get the chance to meet in person.

LIFE STAGES. People often say that "age" is not as important as "life stage." Where are you in your life? Just starting out in a new career? Settled into life with kids? Empty-nesting? Exploring new interests? These are things that matter. Talk about what is important in your life. "I am established in my career and now turning my attention to the great books I never had time to read." "I moved to this town for a job after University, and I am looking for dates with a lot of outdoors-loving friends to help me build a sporty new social circle."

FAVOURITE THINGS. Listing ALL your favourite things is dizzying.. Choose one good example and talk about why you like it. Choose something that gives the reader an insight into what you enjoy. You want people to be able to spot things you have in common, but also feel that there is something new and interesting to learn about you. Interest them in learning more with a "teaser" about something fascinating about you. Ask a question for them to answer in the reply email.

RULES. Never... NEVER include your last name, phone number or address. Observe the rules of the various websites... some do not allow you to post web addresses or email addresses. Many prohibit crude language or sexual references. Getting your ad removed by breaking rules is a waste of time.

So... let your personality be shown in a tasteful way, take the time to do a good job, and have a good photo. Those things alone will put you far ahead of the misspelled anonymous pack. Best of luck!

© Dateable.com LLC 2002

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About the author: Tracy Brant is a freelance writer and an editor at Dateable.com. She can be contacted at tracy@dateable.com.

© Dateable.com LLC 2000


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