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Laura Schaefer,  in her book "Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor: The Best and Worst Personal Ads of All Time" [Thunder's Mouth Press, April 2005] presents a collection of personal ads from the past 300 years. Some excerpts:

"YOUNG MAN, MODERATE circumstances and who has glass eye, would like to form the acquaintance of young girl who has a glass eye or some other deformity not more severe; object, matrimony. Address—."
The Coshocton Daily Age Ohio, August 17, 1903

"Eliza, you can return to the house. The boil on my nose is gone." -- Godey's Lady's Book April, 1873

"A lady, young, pretty, bright and poor, desires to make the acquaintance of a man with the opposite qualities, with a view to a happy marriage." Davenport Tribune, 1894

-Excerpted with permission. © 2005 by Laura Schaefer. Buy Laura's Book at Amazon.com


Also check out our Ebook  "A Practical Guide to Successful Online Dating"



Example mistakes and Profile writing tips

Following are some 1) examples of common mistakes (call them potential profile killers...) in online dating profiles, and 2) profile writing tips- ideas on the kind of things one can write about in their dating profile.

The best way to write a profile is to imagine yourself meeting someone new for the first time in a casual setting- a bar, a coffee shop, or at a friend's party. Think about the kind of things you would tell about yourself to this person- your dating profile is the same idea extended over the Internet.

Example mistakes

(scroll down or click here if you want to see the profile writing tips first)

...."I am an honest, spontaneous, creative, imaginative (..other personal adjectives)  person..."

Very few people think they are not, this is very subjective! Avoid using personal adjectives in your ad. Define yourself concretely-better to say "I am a guitar player in a band, I write novels, or I am a cardiologist" rather than "I am creative or spontaneous."

..."I am sexy, flirtatious,... I like kisses on my back, full body massages from my boyfriend/girlfriend..."

Keep sexual innuendos out of your profile. You will have plenty of time to exchange raunchy emails if you are addicted to writing sexual stuff... but in the first impression, keep them out. Would you say this to a guy or a girl in a bar who you met for the first time? If not, then don't say it in your ad either.

..."I am a funny, witty person with a great sense of humor...."

Funny and witty people never write that directly. Instead of saying this, add a touch of humor to your profileThe correct answers to the questions "Are you a funny person?" or "Do you have a good sense of humor" is always a "No!"

...."My ex-husband/ex-wife used to spend too much time at work, with her friends, not leaving enough time for us..." or "my ex-girlfriend was so beautiful, you have to be very pretty too..."

Avoid talking about previous relationships in your profile. Take the new person as they are; no one likes being compared to previous lovers and partners.

...."I like taking walks by the ocean, or watching TV, or going camping with my friends..."

Unimportant details. Most people like these things, and these are hardly good criteria for finding a partner (it is unlikely you won't like going out with someone just because they don't like walking the beach or watching TV with you). Your hobbies is where you put these things, and more specifically-e.g. snow-boarding, or playing basketball.

...."I am looking for a REAL man/woman, with all the letters of REAL..."

Sounds like you have had some bad experiences in relationships, but that's over now. Come with a positive attitude to online dating, ready to meet new and interesting people.

...."I like blonde women, but if you are dark-haired and very beautiful, write me anyway, maybe you can change my mind...."

Turn-off to both blonde women and dark-haired women. Don't play both sides of the coin, generally backfires. Better not to say anything if you are not sure.

...."I am not interested in guys who are bitter and boring..."

No one is. Use the Ad mostly to tell what you like, not what you don't like. Just as in real life introductions, agreeability is a must have in dating profiles. 

"I hate talking/writing about myself here..."

Displays a non-serious attitude towards online dating. You must talk about yourself in an online dating profile, that's what it's for, even if you don't like it. Imagine a basketball player who comes to a game and says "I don't like playing basketball"...won't it put a bad taste in the viewers' mouths?


And many more...

Profile writing tips

Follow a factual but casual approach to writing your personal ad. You want to let the people get to know you, but at the same time, your ad shouldn't come across as a boring resume. Sprinkle it with some humor, exclamation marks;  make it fun and interesting. 

A good profile has 300-350 words, with 250-300 words for yourself, and 50-100 words describing the kind of person you are looking for. Profiles which are shorter and say something like "if you want to know more, just ask me" are skipped over by serious online daters., they would rather contact someone who already has the information on their dating profile. Everyone is trying to optimize their time, and with hundreds of profiles to choose from, any and all reasons, right or wrong, are used to narrow the pool of potential dates quickly.

Discuss your career history and plans. What kind of jobs you have held, what your future career aspirations are, etc. These are generally looked at as positive. Think of it as the first conversation you are having with someone, don't we usually talk about we do? Excellent stuff to write about in a profile. Be brief, of course- you don’t want to go on and on about selling shoes, delivering the mail, or designing and fabricating cars, for that matter.

If you have children, tell a little about them. This is an important part of your life, and interests the people interested in dating you. Mention their ages, and if they live with you. Don't describe them too much-but giving their ages for example, makes you come across as a normal parent.

If you have moved around a bit in your life, mention the places where you have lived. It gets more people interested in you and wanting to write to you. For example,  if you are presently living in Los Angeles but have lived in Dallas, someone who has a Texas connection is more likely to write to you. If you have lived internationally, all the better-people are always interested in life in other places and cultures.

If you have just moved to where you are living now, mention that. People love playing tourist guides. They are eager to know new faces from other parts of the country or the world. They can also help you settle down in the town more easily-so even if nothing happens romance-wise, you can always make some good friends.

If you speak a foreign language, mention that. It attracts attention. Along the same lines, mention a little of your family genealogy, as people may find a connection there as well (e.g. I have a Scottish or Chinese mother).

Talk about how you entertain yourself. This is where you can be funny and witty, so exercise your imagination. Mention about your social circle. Are you a social person? Do you have many friends? Do you go out with them a lot? What activities do you do with them? If you have a good relationship with your siblings, your parents, and your family, mention it. Mention if they live close to you, and how often you see them. 

Mention if you like pets, and have any of your own.

When you are talking about the person you are looking for, be clear in your requirements, but make sure you don’t limit yourself unnecessarily. So if you don't want to date men who have kids, say so. Or if you don't want to go out with smokers, say it clearly in your ad. But again, be careful-you are restricting potential mates here, so put things only if you are very sure what your potential partner absolutely must or must not have.

Mention if you are looking for a stable relationship or if you are just looking to make friends and will see how things go from there ("looking for nice and interesting people to hang out with").

Read some practical and useful online dating tips