The Words That Work Online

Intimidated by writing a long profile? Relax; a new way to use words on the Web makes it easy to locate a like-minded mate.

By Laura Gilbert

ver sit there and stare blankly at the computer screen, feeling as anxious about filling in the “about me” section in your profile as you did about writing your college admissions essay?

We’ve all been there, and now there’s a cool new way to communicate in shorthand online, both on social networking sites and online dating ones like While it doesn’t replace traditional profiles, it offers another more succinct, shorthand way to describe yourself and search for potential mates. Its name? Tagging.

Simply put, tags are words that describe what you like and what you are like: Imagine a separate column alongside your profile that just lists keywords like Tallgirl, Surfer, SarcasticWit, and StarWarsFreak. Since tags are short, they allow online daters to pack a lot of their interests and personality into their profile without making viewers’ eyes glaze over.

What’s more, since you can search by tags, they help people with eclectic interests connect. “There may be a lot of options you'd like to search by, but traditional online dating searches don't always give you that option. I’ve often lamented that I can’t search for a geek who likes both punk and jazz,” says Alyssa Wodtke, author of Truth, Lies, and Online Dating: Secrets to Finding Romance on the Internet. “The tagging feature lets the music geek I’m looking for tag himself as such—and lets me find him. Tags are the perfect way to find that make-or-break quality you may be looking for in a mate.”

Want to know how to work tagging for maximum results? Keep this advice in mind:

Since tags are short, they allow online daters to pack a lot of their interests and personality into their profile without making viewers’ eyes glaze over.
Tagging tip #1: Describe your dateable qualities
Your first challenge is to create a list of tags that embody you. Ask yourself how you’d describe your personality (OutgoingGuy), interests (FilmNoirFan), and career (Veterinarian). Keep a slip of paper with you during a typical day so you can scrawl down brainstorms you have as they occur—say, StarbucksAddict as you line up for an after-work latte. “Also ask a friend to call out all the qualities that come to mind when he or she thinks of you, and write them all down,” suggests Wodtke. “Pick all of the good qualities, of course, and give special consideration to any words that make you unique.”

Keep in mind that your tags will be read by prospective partners, so you may want to recast any terms that could be misconstrued or work against you. For example, CouchPotato or SuperSexy might be accurate descriptions, but could backfire on a dating site—we humbly suggest IloveHBO and PassionatePersonality as replacements.

Tagging tip #2: Get creative with your word choice
While it’s a good idea to have a few tags that indicate important facets of your life like Moviegoer or AspiringActor, some tags you come up with can—and should—be purely for fun. “The trick in online dating is to make yourself stand out, and unusual tags can help you in this goal,” says Wodtke. So, ask yourself what thoughts or habits make you truly unusual, whether that’s LovePoppingBubblewrap or AfraidofClowns. “It’s never a bad idea to show who you really are because you’re more likely to find someone who will like you for who you really are,” explains Wodtke. “And that’s everyone’s ultimate goal.”

The trick in online dating is to make yourself stand out, and unusual tags—like LovePoppingBubblewrap or AfraidofClowns—can help.
Tagging tip #3: Connect by what you have in common
Next comes the fun part—using the tagging feature to search for potential mates. “Go ahead and start by looking for things you really care about, especially interests you would hope to share with your potential date,” advises Wodtke. Be creative and try different constructs: HarryPotter and JKRowling may get you two different sets of people who share your interests; tags like Reading can find you fellow aficionados but Bookworm might show you people who are truly obsessed.

To get a good sampling or prospects, it’s best to begin your search using a tag that has a broad appeal (like CatLover or YogaCrazy). From there, you can browse through many profiles that fit the bill or enter another, more narrow tag in your search (like SudokuFiend or AlFranken) to whittle down your options. But also don’t be afraid to shoot for gold by searching for something truly outlandish from the get-go. Who knows? Maybe you will find someone who, like you, PlaysRockHarmonica. “It never hurts to start by searching narrowly,” says Wodtke. “You never know if you might find that perfect one right away.”

If New York-based Laura Gilbert were to tag herself, she’d be a FreelanceWriter living in HellsKitchen who thinks TVRules.
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