Wanted: The Perfect Personal Ad

As the vice president of romance and resident dating expert for the popular online dating service Match.com, Trish McDermott has seen the good, the bad and the ugly. She knows what can sink your personal ad faster than the Titanic hitting an iceberg.

Regardless of which online dating service you employ, how you compose your personal profile and the photo you submit to accompany it are critical to finding a match. You should never cavalierly post a “first draft” without giving it appropriate thought, and it’s wise to scope out the competition to see what turns you on or off about others’ autobiographical descriptions. Learn from their mistakes, and you’ll save money, time and heartache.


The Write Stuff

For starters, McDermott offers the following basic guidelines on crafting your online ad or profile:

  • Run spell-check so your listing isn’t riddled with typos. A profile full of mistakes indicates that you’re the sloppy, careless type.
  • Avoid major disclosures. Don’t feel compelled to tell the world everything about yourself in the first paragraph. ( “ And avoid discussing your problems or the challenges you are facing in life,” McDermott tells AdamandDrew.com. “There will be time enough to do that later, with the right person.”)
  • Keep your profile positive and upbeat . Don’t use words like “desperate” or tell the world that your biological clock is ticking. “Avoid describing what you want in terms of negatives,” McDermott advises. (For example, don’t state: “I don’t like to date lawyers because they are all workaholics” or “I don’t date teachers because they don’t make a lot of money” or “I don’t date smokers because they smell bad.”)
  • Never mention your “ex, ” and refrain from sharing the gory details of prior relationships.
  • Keep your ego in check. Don’t brag, boast or make long lists of your accomplishments.
  • Don’t treat the ad like “it’s all a big joke,” McDermott says. If you aren’t serious, why would a potential date invest any time in responding to you, Goofy?
  • Show, don’t tell. Instead of saying, “I have a great sense of humor,” demonstrate your ability to amuse. Write a profile designed to make a potential date laugh.
  • Above all, have fun!


Picture Perfect

As you lovingly craft an attention-grabbing online profile, the worst mistake you can make is submitting a picture that undermines your appeal – or actually sends people running from their keyboards.

“ People send shots in which they have on sunglasses, big hats, costumes or other things that obscure their face, which is what people want to see,” McDermott says. “Men sometimes send pictures of themselves standing next to their cars – and they are small specks in the photo, while the car takes up most of the picture. Make sure you’re big enough and that people can actually see you.”  

Other men submit photos that showcase their bare chests, “but these are not always flattering,” McDermott warns. If you don’t have six-pack abs and pecs to die for, please put on a shirt.

“And don’t submit photos that are too old, as you won’t look like yourself when you show up on a date,” McDermott says. Practice truth in advertising.

Many singles respond only if a photo is posted, according to Paul A. Falzone, CEO of the online dating services TheRightOne.com and TogetherDating.com.

Unfortunately, human beings tend to be shallow, “and 90% of the activity is seen by the 10% most-attractive photos posted,” Falzone tells AdamandDrew.com. “Oddly, those photos could easily be of your cousin, best friend or a complete stranger. That’s the anonymity and secret veil of online dating. Does deceit lead to a long-term relationship? Or a happy one? The moral of the story is that you should post a photo of the real you. And make sure you have it taken by a professional and show your best possible inner light.”

“Your picture needs to be as fabulous as possible,” confirms Melissa Darnay, a professional matchmaker and author of “Dating 101: The Instant Cure for Romance Blues.”

“The person of your dreams is constantly being bombarded by magazine ads, television commercials and billboards,” she tells AdamandDrew.com. Indeed, few of us can compete with airbrushed Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. (Ironically, if you see them on the street without makeup and designer duds, they look remarkably like your extremely average next-door neighbor.)

“Get your makeup professionally done at your local department store before taking your photograph,” Darnay recommends. “Have them do your makeup heavier than normal

because your makeup always looks lighter in photographs.”

Make the right clothing choice.

“Choose the most flattering outfit in your wardrobe,” Darnay says. “You may even want to invest in something new that will make your eyes sparkle. Concentrate on your upper body, as the best photo to use is one of your head and shoulders.”

Finally, have the photographer shoot at least a full roll of film – two, if possible.

“Take dozens of different shots,” Darnay says. “Even the most photogenic model needs more than one photo to get that perfect shot. Try some indoors, and then do others outside.”

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