From zero to hero, online dating pros offer tips

From zero to hero, online dating pros offer tips

By Kenneth Li / Reuters
Feb 14, 2008

"Long walks on the beach, a passion
for music and movies" just isn’t going to cut it anymore in the
rough and tumble world of online dating.

Struggling at finding love on the Web? Start by blaming
your online dating profile, which may contain out-of-date
photos, bland descriptions, or one too many white lies.
Correcting these common mistakes should go a long way toward
avoiding another Valentine’s Day alone.

"Look around; you tell me — how good are profiles these
days," said Evan Marc Katz, dating expert and author of "I
Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book: A Commonsense Guide to
Successful Internet Dating." Katz has written some 500 profiles
for clients on his online profile writing service, E-Cyrano.

"People, after years of doing this, they’ve gotten the
message that they’ve got to do better," he said. "But most
people don’t know what that means."

Just ask Mark Sweeney how the wrong profile can doom
dating. Sweeney, 49, a gay retired mental help aid in upstate
New York who bought his first computer last year on friends’
recommendations, had been out of the dating scene for seven

When he first put up his dating profile, he suffered
through a number of bad experiences and mismatches. "People
were just looking to regularly exchange with as many people as
they can," he said. "They were just perverts."

Sweeney later joined, which helped him polish his
image. "They can help put into words if you’re not a good

He said his new and improved profile helped him land a date
3-1/2 months ago with Joe, who lived 30 minutes away. They’re
heading to Bermuda on a cruise soon.

Still, Sweeney admits, he initially worried that he
wouldn’t find anyone online. "It was kind of depressing at
first," he said.


If you’re alone, you’re in good company. Some 82 million
adults were unmarried in the United States in 2000, or about 40
percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census bureau.
The unmarried adult population is projected to reach 106
million by 2010.

"There’s a lot of people looking for love; they don’t know
what they don’t know," Katz said.

Avoid being one of them by starting out with a few tips.

The profile sprucing begins with the very first line —
your user name. Make it pop, advises Gail Laguna, spokeswoman
for Spark Networks, owner of sites including, and

Forego generic abbreviations of your name such as
JSmith101. Laguna suggested something more expressive, like
Live2Laugh or WhiteWaterWarrior.

Experts also suggest that you try to be more specific in
your profile. Anyone can say they love candle-lit dinners and
sunsets, said Janet Siroto, the editorial director of, a division of IAC/InterActiveCorp.

"Try to replace them with things that are more specific or
unique to you," she said. "If you’re a great vegetable
gardener, not everyone can say that. You like bluegrass music
on weekends, share that."

Another pet peeve among experts: Don’t bother telling
prospective companions how gorgeous or fit you are. Show them
with photos, which leads to the next point.

Lose the seventies get-up. If your main photo makes you
look like an extra on the film "Boogie Nights" or was shot more
than 12 months ago, it’s too old.

Old photos, in fact, are the No. 1 shortcoming of profiles.
"Photos that are old or if you’re wearing an outfit you had in
the 1970s, the one where you’re on the dance floor. That’s
probably the biggest complaint," Laguna said.

Another piece of advice is to drop the bad vibes. Most
people know exactly what they are not seeking, but pointing
that out repels potential dates.

Instead of saying certain types need not apply — an
alcoholic who can’t pay his bills, say, or old men under
five-feet — tell people what you are looking for, Katz said.

"Your job is not to stop the wrong people from writing to
you but attracting the right people."

Most of all, be honest. "The reason that people are on
there … is they want to meet in person. So why waste your
time not being honest?" said Thomas Enraght-Moony, chief
executive of

However, on dating sites, especially those courting users
seeking longer term relationships, it doesn’t help to bare it

Sweeney said: "I would tell people to go to a legitimate
site like where they don’t allow naked pictures,
where you can get help with your profile."

(Additional reporting by Michele Gershberg, editing by
Gerald E. McCormick)

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