The Perfect Personal Ad

"I want a guy who can play 36 holes of golf, and still have enough energy to take Warren and me to a baseball game, and eat sausages, and beer, not lite beer, but beer."

"That's my ad, print it up," concludes the Cameron Diaz-played sweet-and-sexy title character, and big sister to mentally challenged Warren, in the hit romantic comedy There's Something About Mary.


Hold the presses! Mary's would-be personal ad has some makings of a great dating pitch — it gets high marks for honesty and humor — but Mary could stand to sell herself a little: What makes her such a catch that she's worth the effort to contact? (For starters, she's down-to-earth, gorgeous and undyingly loyal to those she loves.)

In real life a personal ad — or its online dating equivalent, the personal profile — can be a terrific tool to endear the right person to you. "The personal ad route can be a good idea because it gives you the opportunity to meet people outside of your little circle of friends and co-workers," says Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist and relationship coach in McLean, Va.

But the way you write a personal profile matters: it could mean the difference, in fact, between hooking the love of your life and falling flat.


There's Something About Your Ad ...

Follow these six simple rules to pique a would-be partner's interest.

  • Talk yourself up ... but stay sincere. What's great that you have to give? How would your best friend sum up the qualities that make you unique? Strut your stuff, Coleman encourages, in a way that's "upbeat, but not fake."
  • Keep the style fun, not formal. "If you have fun writing it, the reader will likely have fun reading it," says author Evan Marc Katz in I Can't Believe I'm Buying This Book: A Commonsense Guide to Successful Internet Dating (Ten Speed Press, 2003). In writing about who you are — as well as about what characteristics you're looking for — write the way you talk, in a creative way that will win people over. A better way to go than "I'm lots of fun," according to Katz: "Karaoke? Rock climbing? Strip poker? Road trip to Vegas? Go on, dare me. I'll do it." Stories — of a recent funny experience, for example — can captivate people in a way that generic descriptions never will.
  • Choose words carefully to express what you really want. "In search of: a wealthy man" might come across as "gold digger," and searching for a stunning woman can seem superficial. Are you actually looking for a partner who's ambitious or fit? That's not as likely to offend.
  • Include a picture that's flattering, but true to you. Find a recent photo to submit, or have one taken. Pick a pic that shows your playful side, or has you hanging out with family or friends, Katz recommends, warning that "photoless folk will hardly be contacted by anyone." In your pictures, as in your words, represent yourself honestly, says relationship coach Coleman. "People will find out the truth soon enough."
  • Read over what you're about to submit. Avoid seeming sloppy; review your writing so it's grammatically correct and typo-free.


Keep It Positive: No Problems, Please

The things you leave out of a personal profile are as important as what you put in — no "my last relationship left me broken-hearted" or "I detest my job." And leave out personal information, for security's sake.

With these ins and outs to go by, personal ads can help you date less duds and zero in on the people who show some potential — whether what you like is golf, baseball and beer, or more along the lines of opera and fine cuisine.