How to Write an Online Dating Profile

We met on a boat. Well, technically, we met on the beach. I was on the boat celebrating my birthday when a storm tossed me overboard and she—being a mermaid and all—rescued me and took me to shore.

Not buying it? Shoot. Well, we are still working on our meet-cute story.

I don’t know why we bother making it up in the first place. So, my wife and I met online. Big deal! These days, about one in five newlyweds met online. The stigma is gone. If you’re thinking about trying it out, I say go for it!

And while I don’t have a PhD on the subject, I do have a PhW (pretty hot wife #dadjokes). So, I must have done something right! Here are six tips—applicable for both men and women—that will help you create a winning online dating profile.

1. PICK YOUR PICS WISELY

I believe it was Shakespeare who quipped, “A picture is worth a thousand emojis.”

Photos are the bread and butter of online dating profiles. If you’re not dedicated to presenting great pictures, then don’t bother with online dating. Pictures are so important, in fact, that I’ve broken this first tip into three subparts:

a. Smile!

No duckface. No impish grin. No sideways smirk. No smoldering, brooding gaze. And no mean-mugging, even if doing so playfully. I’m talkin’ a full-on, I-can-count-your-teeth smile.

Maybe one or two of your photos can mix it up (see subpart 1b) with your facial expressions, but ideally, the rest would all feature toothy smiles. Happiness is the most attractive thing on earth.

b. Mix It Up

Selfie in mirror, selfie in mirror, selfie in mirror holding your cute dog—okay, by now I’m beginning to think you have no friends.

When researching to buy a car online, I want to see more than just pictures of the grille. I want to see different angles, I want to see close-ups and wide pics, and I want to see the car enjoying its active hobbies or out having fun with other cars at cool places—dang, I think the metaphor is breaking down . . .

Regardless! You’re going to want to mix things up a bit. Your pictures are more than just a way to show how pretty or handsome you are. They are to give the potential love of your life a glimpse into your world, to see who you really are.

c. Your Profile Pic

The most important thing regarding your main profile picture is this: you want to be the only person in it. I shouldn’t have to guess—or dig deeper to find out—which totally cute lady out of six totally cute ladies in the picture is you.

(Note: I broke this rule, but my picture was me and my grandma . . . so, yeah. Come on.)

A few extra tips: I wouldn’t wear sunglasses. I would avoid choosing a pic that has you looking extraordinarily “done-up” (instead, opt for something where you are more “everyday”). And, I know I’ve already said this, but smile!

2. THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS

There are two big temptations when it comes to lying on your profile: 1) Presenting your idealistic (and unrealistic) version of yourself, and 2) Presenting the version of yourself that you think your future spouse wants you to be.

Back when I was finding online matches, every woman’s profile I saw—every. single. one.—mentioned a great love for running, hiking, and sports. Not only do these clichéd profiles all blend together, but I also begin to question their veracity. If they were all true, the streets would be lined with female joggers, the hills of the Appalachian Trail would be crawling with female hikers, and arenas across the country would be packed with nothing but female fanatics.

Likewise, I’m willing to bet there are a lot of men’s profiles that talk all about visiting their grandmas once a week, rescuing ducks from oil spills, and counting their large sums of money.

There are all sorts of reasons not to lie on your profile other than “lying is wrong,” but the biggest is pretty obvious: you will be found out eventually. Be honest, and be yourself.

3. PUT YOUR PERSONALITY ON THE PAGE

Russian author Anton Chekhov once wrote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Maybe you learned this writerly advice in high school English literature class and—like with algebra and chemistry—you thought to yourself, When am I ever gonna need this?

Don’t tell me you’re passionate about life; show me how you strive to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

Little did your high-school-self know that you’d one day be writing an online dating profile, and the common adage “show, don’t tell” would be so important.

Only Muhammad Ali can get away with just saying he’s the greatest in the world (and I feel sorry for anyone who asked him to “show, don’t tell”); you aren’t Muhammad Ali. You are going to have to show who you are.

Don’t tell me you’re funny; crack me up. Don’t tell me you’re a good storyteller; captivate me with a thrilling, surprising tale. Don’t tell me you’re passionate about life; show me how you strive to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

Here’s an “About Me” example from yours truly: I like to travel chrono-synclastic infundibulum across the cosmos in search of the perfect waffle and the universe's best opening sentence. I’m unlikely to share if successful in finding either. Besides writing (and intergalactic time-travel), I spend my life reading; making homemade chocolate from the bean; smiting the forces of evil (mostly just in video games, though); and watching reruns of Seinfeld or Boy Meets World. Tragically flawed characters and deliciously unflawed cereal make my world go round.

In just a few sentences you now know: he’s weird, he’s goofy, he reads (and likes Kurt Vonnegut, if you caught the reference), he plays video games, he at least thinks he’s funny, he writes, and he has impeccable taste in television.

4. DEETS GET YOU DATES

Imagine some trees.

Now imagine a snowy mountain forest full of ancient oaks and towering pines, with a family of white-tail deer sipping from an icy cold freshwater creek.

In the first example, the description is so vague that you could poll one hundred people and they could each have a different landscape and species of tree in mind. With the latter description, the mental picture is much clearer.

The best profiles are specific and vivid. Details eliminate the need to guess—and, more importantly, decrease the possibility of later disappointment.

Details make you stand out. You want your profile to be the unforgettable!

Now, you can (and probably should) leave a little bit of mystery, but you also want to avoid being so vague that your profile doesn’t standout or give any clear picture of who you really are. Almost everyone likes to have fun, almost everyone likes to hang with friends, and almost everyone likes music. The details make you different. The details make you stand out.

You can accomplish this with specificity. Instead of “I like playing video games,” you might say, “Every weekend, I save Azeroth from impending doom with my Shaman Troll named Jibjub. For the Horde!”

You can also be more memorable with “freaky facts” like, “I once had a lymph node removed from my armpit because I contracted Cat Scratch Fever from a stray feline. Who knew! It’s not just an awesome Ted Nugent song!”

Either way, you want your profile to be the unforgettable “lush rainforest teeming with boisterous wildlife,” and not “some green nature.”

5. DANGLE THAT CARROT

Speaking as an authority on the subject, it’s not easy approaching women. I am sure it’s not easy for most women to approach men either. Online dating relaxes this anxiety somewhat, but it doesn’t alleviate it completely. You’re still opening yourself up to a stranger and saying, “So, uh . . . Here I am. What do you think?” It can be scary for both sides of the dance. But it can be made easier, too, if you help each other out a little bit.

Throw prospective dates a bone. Give them a loose thread to pull. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs. Bait the hook. Dangle that carrot.

The best way to do this is to gently prompt anyone viewing your profile, hinting at or even overtly encouraging how to proceed with a great conversation starter.

Things like: Ask me about my trip to Machu Picchu, or Ask me about the time I met Justin Timberlake, or If you’ve got a good travel story, I’d love to hear it!, or I love my family. Tell me about yours! . . .

You don’t have to break the ice completely, but you can ensure the ice is paper thin!

6. POOFREED

If you’re anything like me, you read the subheading of this section and slapped your palm against your forehead. You saw the typo and immediately reacted—you giggled at the irony, you groaned at the obvious error, or you scoffed at the idiocy of the writer. It doesn’t matter how you reacted, because you did react. Instead of admiring my wit and charm, you were distracted by the mistake and were probably making tiny little snap assumptions about me. The more mistakes, the more assumptions. This is not putting your best foot forward.

Be yourself and remember, your goal is not to attract as many potentials as possible.

Even though we’re told not to, we usually do judge a book by its cover (which is why publishing companies spend a lot of money on cover art). But we also judge a book by its grammar.
Sometimes I lay awake at night wondering how many soulmates missed out on a life of blissful togetherness because of bad grammar. I guess we’ll never truly know . . .


So there they are. Six online dating tips that helped me snag my wife and that will—I hope—help you find love, too. Just remember, your goal is not to attract as many potentials as possible.

When sitting down in front of your computer to write your profile, keep in mind that you aren’t writing for everyone. You don’t need 1,000 people to fall in love with you. You just need one.

Good luck!

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