5 Classic Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your Online Dating Ad

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Less is more in the Internet dating world, according to Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, the multimillion-selling authors of The Rules! Here are their tips for writing a great ad, from their book The Rules for Online Dating.

To join an online dating service, whether it is jdate.com, match.com, or love@aol, you are required to fill out a questionnaire that may include as many as 50 questions. This questionnaire essentially makes up your ad or profile. Questions may include height, weight, job description, favorite TV show, goals, ideals, and a self-description.

Do not agonize over filling out these forms, since most men will only look at your photo and simply scan whatever you write. Do not feel you have to answer every question and do not break any Rules in doing so.

A peculiar phenomenon born of online dating has occurred whereby, for some reason, women who would never consider responding to such intimate questions on a date or in a bar will answer very personal questions with honesty and integrity in beautifully scripted essays about things that are absolutely nobody’s business such as “five-year goals” and “annual income.” We believe a man has to go out with you for several months to find out what your goals are! So less is more on these forms.

Thus, the key to writing a good ad is to give the impression that you just threw some answers down with a cute pic on your way out to a business meeting or the gym, because, after all, you are very busy. Write it like you have lots of things going on in your life, but that you just thought this would be fun. Do not put a lot of effort into it as if you are writing your doctoral thesis. You should reveal very little about yourself so that they have to ask you out on a date to find out more.

Here is an example of a good Rules-y ad, titled BlueEyedBlondBeauty32:

I live in Boston. I’m 32 years old, 5’6″, 115 pounds.
I am single. I like hiking, skiing, and dancing.
I work in Advertising, have a BA in Marketing.
I am fun, sophisticated yet easygoing.
I like Chinese and Italian food.
I’d like to meet someone who is between the ages of 32 and 40.

Tell us about yourself: Let’s see, I like to go to the movies, ski, or just hang out with friends.

What is your perfect match? Someone kind, honest, smart, with a good sense of humor.

What sort of first dates do you enjoy? Pleasant ones. You click. It is not work. You are not looking at your watch, hoping it would end. You leave feeling good.

What sort of relationship are you looking for? One where it’s just “easy,” you truly enjoy being with that person and he with you, it just feels great!

The reason that this is a good ad is that it is factual (height, weight, and other physical attributes) and it is easy to read, not poetic or heavy-handed or demanding. Nothing about intense feelings, longings, hopes, and dreams that would scare the average man away. She does not say she is looking for marriage and children. She is just looking to meet someone nice for dinner or a movie. She does not reveal her hand.

We looked at hundreds of ads on several services and many were too long, too deep, and too demanding. Classic mistakes we found included:

  • Women who say they are looking for love and marriage and children or describing themselves as marriage-minded. Although it is obvious that this is why most people are online, you are putting all your cards on the table to say so. What mystery or challenge is there if you are telling a man you haven’t even met yet what your plans are? He will feel suffocated before the relationship even begins. Just say you are looking for a date or to meet new people, so he can relax and breathe.
  • Women who say they are “willing or open to relocating.” You have not even met these men yet and you are already packing your bags, yanking your kids out of elementary school, and selling your house. You sound too eager, like a used-car salesman lowering his price before getting an offer. When he proposes with a ring and a wedding date, you can talk about relocating, not in your ad.
  • Women who post more than one ad on the same dating website. It looks desperate and doesn’t work. Trust us, if he passed over your first ad, he is not going to be interested in another version of you. A man either likes your type or he doesn’t. Changing your screen name and your pose is not going to do the trick. This is not like bingo, where you can increase your chances of winning by playing two boards. There is an attraction or there isn’t. So the rule is: Post different ads on different sites, but never post more than one ad on the same site.
  • Women who post three or more photos in the same ad. One photo is enough. When you start posting a headshot, you on the beach, and you out to dinner with friends in the same ad, you start to look desperate. A man needs just one good headshot to see if he wants to go out with you.
  • Women who write long answers with tons of feelings that look like they were written by Hallmark or right after a therapy session.

Too many intense feelings scare men away. When asked to describe the ideal relationship, one attractive woman in her forties answered:

I want a relationship like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, a bond that is stronger than a piece of paper. Now that I am divorced, I know that a marriage certificate isn’t as important as a life-long commitment.

This is too much. Always remember, you are writing this on your way out. You are not analyzing celebrity relationships and asking men to be movie stars. You are not putting down marriage. You are not cynical. You are happy and optimistic.

When asked to describe her ideal mate, one successful woman in her thirties answered:

The man I want to meet is successful in business, sophisticated yet laid back, compassionate yet driven, outdoorsy but a homebody, who can take me to fine restaurants and on wonderful vacations, and most important be my best friend.

Is there anything she left out? Basically she is saying she wants everything, particularly a rich guy. She comes across as a gold digger.

When asked about life goals, one stunning woman in her fifties answered:

I am looking to share love and life. The joy is in the journey…discovering each other and embracing life. I am on the road a lot for my job so I want to know there is someone there for me when I come home…someone caring, honest, intelligent, a good listener. I want a man who is comfortable enough to let me see his inner child, someone not afraid to show his emotions. I’m ready to make a life-long commitment to the right person…

This is not an answer to a question, it is poetry and therapy. Would you ever get on a microphone in a bar and read this aloud? We hope not.

Remember, you are talking to strangers! There is absolutely no mystery or excitement for a man when a woman says everything on her mind. It is also a burden for the average man to be told he must be Deepak Chopra in the relationship department. Besides, who doesn’t want someone kind, loving, compassionate and so on? If you scan women’s ads on the Internet, you will see that every woman wants the same thing!

Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider are the multimillion-selling authors of The Rules! and The Rules for Online Dating: Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right in Cyberspace (Copyright © 2002 by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider).



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