Get Off On The Write Foot

The prospect of writing about yourself in an online dating profile can be terrifying. Try these tips to give a genuine first impression of who you are.

By Mark Amundsen

ou’ve got the drop-dead photo; you’ve compiled your vital statistics; you’ve decided on what you’re looking for in a relationship. Time to write the profile essay! But there’s that blank screen, not yet polluted by a single character of your allotted 4,000, daunting you and taunting you. Finally, in a panic, you hammer out something like this:

“I’m a fantastic person and you’ll really like me unless you don’t, in which case I guess I’m wrong, ha ha ha. Love puppies, kittens, shoes, puppies in
Don’t be put off by that big blank spot.
shoes, etc. I probably drive a better car than you. I’m totally over being stood up for the high school prom now. But if you’re reading this, Jennifer Smith, don’t contact me! LOL. Counseling sessions down to one a week. Anyway, I might be enigmatic, but then again, I might not be. Wink at me and find out!”

You suspect this may not be your finest effort. But perhaps you haven’t been called on to do any creative writing — other than itemizing your deductions — in years. How can you come up with a sensational profile that shows off the real you? Here are some suggestions that will make for a killer profile.

1. Go Low-Tech
For your initial draft, get out your good old-fashioned pen and paper. (Yes, they still make them.) Most of us write slower by hand, which means we write more carefully and have time to think before we blurt.

2. Remember: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect Right Now
Don’t be put off by that big blank spot. Just jot down the things you would like someone to know about you, and worry about the grammar and spelling later. Don’t get all sales-pitchy at this point; just stick to the facts.

3. Tell It Like It Is
Linda Mastaglio, a communications consultant who helps business pros write prose more effectively, cautions against characterizing yourself as something you aren’t. “Don’t say ‘I love to dance’ if you really mean ‘I’d like to learn to dance someday.’ Don’t say ‘I love museums’ if you haven’t been to one for five years. If you want people to trust you, then be truthful
Now is the time to get a dictionary and use it.
in all your ways,” says Mastaglio. And this is also to your benefit in that, as Mastaglio says, “The honesty will help you attract the kind of person you really want.”

4. Keep It Simple, Sweetheart
Don’t haul out the five-dollar words unless you normally throw them around like beads at Mardi Gras. Be careful with the corporate talk, text-message abbreviations or other jargon. They may seem pretentious, and they can also act as a smoke screen to cover up the person doing the writing. Instead, as you turn your draft into English, think about what it is within you that you want to share with someone else — and not necessarily a deep bonding of souls. “If you want to attract someone with a motorcycle,” says Mastaglio, “write, ‘I love motorcycles; if you do too, then let’s take a ride!’”

5. Keep It Clean
By keeping your profile “clean”, I mean more than just conforming to the posting guidelines. Now is the time to get a dictionary and use it to polish up your writing. It doesn’t have to gleam; it just has to not have any glaring errors that would make you feel embarrassed if you spotted them later.

6. Let It Be
Tracy Tidings is a senior technical writer — a field in which clarity in communications is everything. She suggests that after you write your profile, wait a day or two before posting it: “Go back and reread it from the perspective, ‘Would this be someone I would be interested in dating?’” If not, what’s wrong with it? Give it some more tweaks or a complete overhaul, then bring in a friend for a second opinion. (Helpful tips specifically for the guys can also be found in 7 profile mistakes guys make. Ladies can reference 6 profile mistakes women make).

Above all, remember to have some fun with your profile. Believe that the lives of others will be enriched by meeting you, and let your self-description reflect that.

Mark Amundsen is a writer and editor in New York who is fine at writing when he is not writing about Mark Amundsen, as he is at the moment.
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