I read dozens of dating profiles every day, and not because I’m looking for a date: I am a professional online dating profile writer for Match.com’s ProfilePro service. It’s my job to take someone’s profile and some additional information gleaned from a survey, then use that information to craft something that really showcases who each person is as an individual — and that will attract the kind of person he or she is seeking.
As you might have guessed, I’ve developed a few ideas of my own about where people often go wrong when writing their profiles. I tend to see the same problems over and over again. Here are the most common mistakes people make and how to fix them so your profile really pops.
Mistake #1: Using generic, clichéd language
This is definitely the most common issue with dating profiles. It seems that everyone has a “good sense of humor,” is “fun,” and is “happy and positive.” Other clichéd phrases and terms to avoid: glass-half-full person, outgoing and friendly, romantic, affectionate. In general, long lists of adjectives will make your potential match’s eyes cross before he or she gets to the end of the sentence.
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Solution: Get specific
When you want to use an adjective to describe yourself, think of an anecdote or example that shows how you embody that trait and share that instead. For example, if you are romantic, you might say, “I’m the type of partner who will plan a surprise weekend getaway to a cozy little B&B on the coast where we can snuggle in bed or watch the waves crashing on the shore.” Or if family is really important, you might write, “Nothing means more to me than spending the weekend cheering on my sons in their lacrosse games.”
Mistake #2: One-sided profiles
I always find it fascinating when a client either writes the entire profile about himself or who she’s looking for… and that’s it. My choice of pronouns is intentional: I’ve found, anecdotally, that more guys tend to write about themselves and don’t include much about the woman they’re seeking (except perhaps for “attractive”). And it seems that there are definitely more women than men out there who have a long, detailed laundry list of requirements for their desired mate.
Solution: Balance it out
Make sure your profile is balanced; definitely share some telling details about yourself and who you are, but save some information for the first email, date, and beyond! Don’t write an autobiography. And if you have a really picky checklist of traits your mate must possess, remember that you’re turning away potential matches before you even get to see if, perhaps, that one requirement just isn’t quite as important as you thought (such as having dark hair or being at least six feet tall). Some qualities are non-negotiable, of course, but if something is just a “bonus,” state it that way in your profile. Or you might say, “I’m particularly drawn to people with dark hair, but I won’t turn away blondes or redheads.”
Mistake #3: Too much text
You know you’ve seen it: a profile where you have to scroll down, and down, and down again… and by that point, your eyes are glazing over. As a profile writer, so are mine — and then I heave a sigh because I know I’m going to have to cut that profile way down, knowing that sometimes the client isn’t going to take it very well. People with long profiles tend to be attached to every bit of information that’s included in them. They’ve often worried over each word, trying to craft a profile that perfectly reflects their personalities. So I’ll tell you what I tell them: a truly standout profile isn’t very long; it’s usually a few short paragraphs. It can still tell you just as much about a person as a longer one will, but you’ll keep reading a shorter profile until the end without needing a nap when you’re done.
Solution: Edit, edit, edit
Here’s where a trusted friend — and, dare I say, a professional profile writer! — can really come in handy. Think about how you can say the same thing using fewer words. Try to put some of the information into the shorter sections on the left-hand side of your profile. You don’t need to share how much you love playing tennis in your essay if you already mentioned that in the “interests” section, for example. And shorten your paragraphs to three to four sentences each. Short paragraphs provide much-needed white space and help break up your profile so that readers can stop and take a breath between ideas. A quick-and-dirty guideline is to have two paragraphs about yourself, then two about who you’re looking for and perhaps one or two sentences at the end to wrap it up.
Mistake #4: Photos that don’t do a profile justice
Please, please take down that photo of you taken with your cell phone camera in a dirty mirror. It isn’t helping you at all. And do you have your shirt off, sir? Please put it back on! Whew, thanks. Now, let’s talk: You’re not doing yourself any favors if you have bad photos posted with your profile. And those include you with your arm around a woman who is quite possibly your ex, but probably your sister. Or six photos of your dogs in various positions on the couch. All kidding aside, even blurry, unflattering, or poorly cropped photos can really detract from your profile.
Solution: Tell a story with your pictures
I see way too many profiles where the writing is good, but the photos fall flat. We’re visual people, especially these days. Your photos tell just as much of a story about you as your written profile does. They should show clearly what you look like, of course, but also tell a bit about who you are. Do you like to kayak? Get someone to snap a photo of you in your boat on the water. Are your friends the most important people in your world? Hand someone the camera when you’re out dancing and get a candid shot. Make sure you also include one good full-body shot and one close-up of your face, but if you paid for a professional photo shoot, don’t put all eight of the “good” ones up. No one wants to click through a bunch of photos that are all really similar to each other. Pick one or two of the best ones and get some friends to help you take some candid shots for the rest of your profile photos. And please, no exes! In fact, if you want to avoid inadvertently turning someone off, don’t put up a photo of you with anyone of the opposite sex that could be misinterpreted as an ex — even if she really is your sister.
Lauren Ware lives and writes in northern Vermont. Besides crafting new dating profiles for clients of Match.com’sProfileProservice, she pens theAbout.com Guide to Small Farmsand writes about medicine, science, food and farming for such publications as Proto and Wondertime. Read more of her work at www.LaurenWare.com.