GSOH Required: How to Write an (Effective) Online Dating Profile

I had a great idea for a dating website a little while ago. 

I’d call it, and each profile would consist of nothing but that person’s favourite joke.  No photos, no lengthy likes and dislikes, just their favourite joke.  If you laughed, you’re matched with that person. 

My idea wasn’t based on any scientific research (shockingly); I just think a shared sense of humour is a much better ‘wheat from chaff’ separator than liking the same sort of music.

(I also think dating websites could benefit from a ‘user review’ section, much like Trip Advisor.  That way, people who went out with you before could submit their own photos, explain if you were good value for money, and confirm if they’d recommend you to a friend).

But back to the real world, in which online dating profiles have to be written, then posted – with a glossy photo that definitely hasn’t passed through an impressive range of filters.

Most people can handle all the photo-editing, it’s the profile part they find trickier.  With so many options to choose from, you have to stand out; it’s not at all like when my Dad was dating, way back in the Eighties. 

In those days, you’d choose your favourite ‘personal’ ad from the back of the local paper, then you’d write that person a letter to introduce yourself.  The process took some time and effort, so if you placed an ad yourself, you’d probably only receive a handful of replies.

(Dad would give his to my little sisters and me to vet for him; we filed them into ‘maybe’, ‘no’, and ‘OMG, definitely not’ piles. One letter was sent by a woman who enclosed a photo of herself in a towelling dressing gown with stains on the front, then rambled on about how her ex-husband had killed himself, and her most recent ex-boyfriend was still in prison. 

We put her in the ‘maybe’ pile for a laugh, then forgot, and Dad ended up arranging a date with her).

Those days are, sadly, gone.  So how exactly do you stand out online, then?

The answer is simple.  You have to actually be yourself, rather than a hazy version, or one that’s smothered in flamboyant sprinkles of dating glitter.

One of the many eclectic writing jobs I do is online dating profile writing.  It all started when I wrote one for a friend as a favour.  He’d been lamenting the fact that he never met the right people online, so I offered to go through his profile for him. 

It was awful.  He’d lied about his age, mentioned loving a film I knew for a fact he hadn’t seen, then listed an eye-watering number of qualities his intended other half would have to have, without really talking about himself at all.

While it appears that my friend was being completely obnoxious, I’ve found that these are common profile mistakes that lots of people unthinkingly make, just because they’re trying to impress anyone who takes a passing interest.

Then there are the profiles that contain hardly any information whatsoever.  As a potential date, you’re left with no impression other than: is this person is incredibly modest, or could they simply not be arsed to write anything? 

Why would you bother finding out, when you’ve got so many options to choose from?

Back to being yourself, then.

All it takes is some realistic thought about a) who you really are, and b) who you’re really looking for.  You’re not trying to attract the whole world, just those people who will like who you are, and who will want the same things you’re after.

To attract those people, you’ll have to explain those things.  Quite specifically, because it’s detail that will make you stand out, and most people aren’t mind readers.

(It’s a bit like saying “I love watching films”, then leaving it at that.  But there are millions of films out there, in genres that range from light-hearted romcom to torture porn).

If you’re not sure what ‘being yourself’ means (it can be difficult), you could do worse than asking your friends how they’d describe you if they were setting you up with someone. 

Just make sure they’re honest friends.

I was honest with mine.  I tore his awful profile to shreds, then we sat and chatted about what he was really looking for over tea and cake. 

The new-and-improved profile we put together (along with a few shots of him looking ruffled and a bit moody along Southend seafront) turned out to be a hit… for all the right reasons.

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