How To Stand Out Online!

Want a profile that’ll stop people in their tracks rather than fade into a sea of other suitors? Include these 6 eye-catching elements.

By Katherine Dykstra

1. An attention-grabbing screen name
Since online daters don’t use their actual names in their profile, coming up with a memorable screen name is essential. So, skip the usual handles like “nicesinglegirl” or “harry123” and go for something more provocative. You want someone to feel compelled to take a closer look. But it doesn’t have to be serious: “The most effective screen name may be one that makes someone laugh out loud,” says Evan Marc Katz, author of I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book: A Commonsense Guide to Successful Internet Dating and the CEO of E-Cyrano. “Take something expected and then twist it. If you like ballet or skiing or the theater, play with those ideas until you come up with something fun.” So you’re a sweet guy and a great chef? Try Cookupastorm. It may seem like a lot of work for one little word, but remember, usernames are essentially your identity online—make it count, and it will turn heads.

2. A stop-the-presses headline
Headlines — the large text at the top of your profile — are prime real estate for making an unforgettable first impression. “SWF looking for SWM?” Boooring. Spark your suitor’s curiosity with something irreverent or provocative. Since someone else might have voiced your sentiments
Don’t be afraid to divulge what’s weirdly wonderful about you.
already, check out the Internet Movie Database ( for movie quotes, for song lyrics, or for bon mots you can borrow. Or how about a call to action, suggests Liz Kelly, dating coach and author of Smart Man Hunting: “Write about something fun that you might do together.” Headlines like “Moonlight and Margaritas” or “The City and A Subway Map” will help people envision the fun they’d have with you rather than make their eyes glaze over.

3. A terrific secondary photo
Granted, your primary photo should show you at your absolute best—“The best photo and the most close-up,” advises Katz. With your secondary photo, however, it’s time to get creative, so try posting a shot of you in your element. “Pictures should have context,” says Katz. “They want to see you, in your life.” Big on hiking? You, victorious at the peak of a mountain. Tight with your family? You, surrounded by nieces and nephews on Thanksgiving. Obsessed with travel? You at a café in Paris. Unforgettable? We think so.

4. The right pop-culture reference
For better or for worse, pop-culture icons strike an instant chord of recognition with most people—and you can use this to your advantage while writing your profile. Forgo predictable self-descriptions — “I’m nice, and I like to laugh,” — and compare your appearance or personality to a celebrity or a character in a film or TV show. “You can liken yourself to a character in a movie such as ‘Sally type looking for a Harry…’ Or ‘Love to sing (but I’m no Kelly Clarkson),’” suggests Toni Coleman, a Virginia-based psychotherapist and dating coach. Just don’t go too far and compare your physical appearance to, say, Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie unless you’re their spitting image—or want your date to think you have an overly-healthy self-esteem.

5. Laugh-out-loud lines
Saying “I’m funny”? Yawn. Being funny? Yes, please! Make potential suitors laugh out loud while reading your profile, and we promise they won’t forget you anytime soon. “It’s best to show that you’re funny without actually saying, ‘I’m funny.’
Use “we” instead of “I,” and describe fun activities you two could share.
Try telling an anecdote about something you did that was funny,” says Patti Feinstein, founder of America’s Dating Coach. Nothing comes to mind? Then try something a little self-deprecating—how you’re the member of your Ultimate Frisbee team who’s most likely to run into a tree, or some such.

6. Intriguing suggestions for how you’ll spend together-time
A great way to stand out (not to mention, snag the exact kind of interest you’re in the market for) is to suggest an activity. “Paint a picture in your profile of something that you might do together. Use the word ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘you’ when describing fun things you want to share. For example, ‘We could go hiking in the canyons, skiing in Tahoe or check out an art festival,’” says Kelly. Also, Be open to new interests. Comment that you have never tried sky-diving (or some other activity) but would love for someone to show you how,” says Bev Bacon, author of Meet Me…Don’t Delete Me and Internet Dating: I’ve Made All the Mistakes So You Don’t Have To. The upshot: It’ll get people thinking beyond “this person seems nice” and get them thinking “this person’s nice and I’d love to try that!” Voila, you’ve snagged their interest—and maybe an email.

Katherine Dykstra is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in The New York Post, Time Out New York, Fodor’s travel guides and Redbook.
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