Insightful Profile Writing Tips

If writing your profile seems daunting, you’re not alone. Use these tips from online daters and experts alike to take your profile from turn-off to tempting.

By Sara Susannah Katz

our sign: Capricorn. Your favorite kind of movie: Comedy. Like animals? Sure. Now, tell us a little about yourself in your own words. Ummm... can I get back to you on that?

No doubt about it, writing about yourself is often the hardest part of posting a dating profile.

You want to mention your best traits but don’t want to seem conceited. You want to be honest without
You want to mention your best traits but don’t want to seem conceited.
revealing too much. You want to describe your dream mate, but you don’t want to seem insanely picky. It’s no wonder so many online daters procrastinate about writing this daunting, yet essential, piece of the profile: the essay section.

The first time I pulled my profile together I was so bent on sounding positive I wound up sounding like a Stepford (ex) wife, super-sweet and utterly devoid of character. It took several tries before I found just the right tone, a quirky mixture of facts and feelings with a dash of self-deprecating humor.

I know what I ought to say, but I’m not exactly sure what to leave out. Do I mention my love of therapeutic shopping? That I hate exercising? That I’m more of a homebody than a world traveler? Ask the experts and successful online daters and you’ll discover a great divide between two groups I’ll call the “Tell-Alls” and the “Close-To-The-Vesters.”

Stacie Krajchir, a Los Angeles publicist who says she won “the gold medal of men” through online dating, cautions women, “Don’t be too eager to say you want marriage and kids in the next 20 minutes.” Her boyfriend Kris adds that women shouldn’t wax poetic about how much they love their four cats: “That’s a big turnoff.” As de facto profile editors for their online dating friends, the couple also advises against mentioning whether you’re on medication, living at home with your parents or if you’re unemployed. As for any other negatives, “Maybe just say that your baggage can fit in the overhead compartment and leave it at that,” says Krajchir.

Psychologist Robert Epstein believes it’s better to be vague, pointing to studies from Harvard, Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that agree when it comes to information — the more details you provide, the worse you look. “People mistake vagueness for attractiveness, filling in the missing details in ways that suit their own desires,” Epstein explains in an online dating article for Scientific American.

Debra Berndt, author of Let Love In (Wiley, 2010), is in the other camp: “Be really specific and honest about what you’re looking for,” she urges. “I wasted five years of my life trying to be someone that guys would want to date. I left out the words ‘marriage’ and ‘kids’ and ‘commitment’ in my profile so I wouldn’t scare men away. I only showed my playful side and suppressed my deep, spiritual side. I had a great recently taken photo posted, but only attracted those men who weren’t looking for a committed relationship and who were attracted primarily by my looks.”

By the time Berndt was ready to give online dating another try, her perspective had changed. “For the first time in my life, I really loved who I was. I decided to put it all out there. I updated my profile, saying, ‘I am spiritual, I want marriage and kids, I am not looking to play games.’ The result? The very first man to respond is now my life partner. He was exactly what I was looking for and I attracted him because I was putting my true self out there.” Berndt
Ditto for that first date: no ex talk, ever!
acknowledges that some dating experts would disapprove of all that self-disclosure. “That’s OK. I only wanted to attract men who aren’t turned off by love and marriage,” says Berndt. “People hiding behind a facade really need to take a deep look within to find out why they are pretending to be someone else. There is someone out there looking for someone exactly like you.”

Whether you spill the beans or keep your lip zipped is entirely up to you, of course. You could even experiment and see which approach attracts which kind of date and adjust accordingly. In the meantime, daters and experts alike do agree on the following points:

Don’t whine about your exes
In fact, don’t mention them at all. If you bring up your last relationship, how it ended or that you’ve been damaged by the experience, you’ve automatically turned off the majority of people reading about you because you’ve put your baggage up for the world to see and turned it into a virtual barrier that hides your positive qualities.

“We know that there have been other fish in your sea, but they don’t need to show up in your profile,” agrees Shannon Fox, licensed marriage and family therapist and former host of Discovery Health Channel’s Love on the Rocks. “No one needs to hear your sob story about how you just got out of a relationship and how your heart is on the mend. The only people that profile will attract are the sharks looking for a vulnerable rebound. Ditto for that first date: no ex talk, ever!”

Don’t be a cheapskate
Laurie Davis, founder of eFlirt Expert, says it’s fine to test the waters by trying out the free aspects of online dating — but once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to pony up and buy a membership. “Sneaking your contact information into your profile shows you’re not committed, which turns off matches and hinders your online dating success,” warns Davis.

Don’t advertise for an assistant
Even if it’s true, you don’t have to mention that you need home cooking or a good handyman around the house. I once read a profile that appeared to be quite promising until I got to this part: “There are a lot of chores to do around this farm and I’m tired of doing them alone.” Are you kidding me? Do I look like Old MacDonald to you? Try the Help Wanted section of the paper, buddy.

Avoid using the “My friends say that I am...” cop-out
What may seem like a clever way to brag about yourself comes off as coy or timid when it’s read by someone else and does little to help a potential date make a connection. “You should sound confident. Adding vague adjectives your friends would use to describe you won’t help your match know who you truly are,” says Davis.

Don’t fill your profile with lists of prerequisites
Listing a litany of attributes a prospective partner must have — especially when it comes to sensitive things, like finances, physical attributes, level of education, or saying that you will only date someone younger than you — is a real turnoff. The more negative and demanding you are, the more you come off as living in a fantasy world with impossible dating standards. Instead, list only true deal breakers. These are things you can’t or won’t compromise on, like being allergic to pets, issues you may have with smoking or drinking and whether you’re only willing to date vegetarians, for example.

Now that you know what works and what doesn’t, get busy focusing on the positive things you love about yourself and tackle that essay with confidence!

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest. Her novel, Wife Living Dangerously, is now available. In addition, Katz currently writes The Devil Wears Dockers, an online serial about working for a boss from hell.
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