What Not To Say In Your Online Dating Profile

Lisa Hoehn specializes in transformations that can make anyone more attractive to potential suitors: online dating profile makeovers. "I'm a serial online dater — which means I've sent and received thousands of messages, corresponded with hundreds upon hundreds of men, and been on (without exaggeration) at least one hundred first dates," she says in her book, You Probably Shouldn't Write That: Tips and Tricks for Creating an Online Dating Profile That Doesn't Suck, out today. Hoehn writes that she got her start in the online dating world with a profile her tipsy teen sister created for her — which turned out more than a bit inauthentic and (unsurprisingly) didn't successfully attract dates who jibed with her IRL.

When Hoehn revamped her profile, however, her dance card followed: "Refreshingly," she shares, "the men on the other end seemed interested in getting to know me as opposed to talking to everything with a vagina and a face." Imagine! To rescue the online dating layperson (and that's many of us: 22% of 25 to 34-year-olds have used an online dating site) from an endless cycle of ill-matched matches, Hoehn started Profile Polish, a business that rewrites clients' profiles, and has now packaged her hard-won advice into You Probably Shouldn't Write That.

Read on for five of Hoehn's best tips for making online dating not suck.
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Photographed By Rockie Nolan.
1. Pick a username that isn't terrible.
As Hoehn points out, there are only two scenarios in which a potential match will care about your username: "When you really nail it or you really screw it up." This to-do, then, is more about what not to do. Hoehn's list of "hell no": a sexual reference; too many numbers; your last name (you really don't need to be Google-able); obvious bragging (you have plenty of future chances to look like a dick); or a series of random letters (it's a username, not an auto-generated password).
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Photographed By Anna Alexia Basile.
2. Show, don't tell.
"It sounds like an obnoxious, high school English teacher thing to say, and, well, it is," Hoehn concedes — but too many people make the mistake of listing facts rather than telling mini-stories about themselves, which is far more compelling. Instead of rattling off "I like boats," "I have traveled the world," and "I can walk on stilts" in rapid succession, pick one or two of these statements and expand with anecdotes about experiences that you have had, or hope to have. You'll make it that much easier for an interested party to start an actual conversation with you.
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Photographed By Rockie Nolan.
3. Ditch the clichés.
A whopping 40 million Americans date online. How are you going to stand out as the special flower you are if you use the same words as everyone else? Hoehn has made a helpful list of words and phrases to avoid, including "spontaneous," "exploring," "foodie" (aren't we all?), "love to learn," "up for anything," and "will try anything once." And please, don't say you're looking for "a partner in crime," "a true partner" or, God forbid, "a yin to my yang."
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Photographed By Rockie Nolan.
4. Ban bad pics.
As Hoehn writes, good photos are more important than being good-looking. If your photos support the text of your profile by showing you, what you like to do, and the people with whom you like to do it, a potential match will sense who you are beyond the straightness of your teeth, or arch of your eyebrows, or whatever else it is that person notices about appearance. Nix blurry, small, dark, or grainy photos ("they'll make it look like you don't care about presenting your best self"); use photos that represent your looks now, not 10 pounds less or years ago (your goal is to meet someone who likes you in person, right?); and, above all, use photos of you, not your cat, or your car, or your garden. They're not the ones trying to get a date.
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Photographed By Rockie Nolan.
5. When it's time to reach out, get specific.
When someone has caught your eye and you're crafting an initial message (which you will, because you are a confident, self-actualized dater who can make the first move), you have a leg up by even reading the person's profile. (Formulaic mass messages are surprisingly easy to spot.) An effective note calls out a specific detail from a profile and latches onto it, relating the writer's own experience to the recipient's, then goes on to ask an open-ended question. And finally, don't forget to proofread — there's nothing like sloppy grammar or spelling to ruin the virtual mood.
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