I recently went out with a guy from OKCupid who told me that he had noticed a lot of women including long lists of red flags and dealbreakers in their profiles.
“I find that so annoying,” he complained. “I mean, do girls actually get a ton of messages from guys who can’t spell or who aren’t wearing any shirts?” The short answer is: Yes. Yes, we do.
While a lot of guys might not take those lists seriously, there are many mistakes men can make in their profiles that will trigger an immediate red flag in a woman’s mind. Although some of these should be obvious, many are honest mistakes that even guys with the best intentions might make. As women, we understand that there are a lot of weirdos and creepers to weed through on these sites. But if you’re not one of them, be sure to use these tips to make your profile more appealing and less sketchy.
- Unacceptable profile photos: There are three types of photos you should never have in your profile. Mirror photos, simply put, are tacky. If you can’t scrounge up a photo of yourself out in the world or with friends, it’s time to take some. Shirtless photos are also off-putting to most women. You don’t need to prove to us that you have a nice body or work out. That should be clear even with your shirt on. Finally, immediately remove any photo of you holding a gun, especially if it’s pointed at the camera. No joke, I honestly see this all the time. I even once saw a photo of a guy pointing a gun at a dog. I don’t care if you love hunting or think it makes you look cool. It’s creepy.
- Crappy spelling and grammar: Spelling and grammar are crucially important in a format where all you have are written words to make a good impression. If it’s not your strong suit, have someone look over profile for errors and brush up on your skills in the meantime. If you’re serious about meeting people online, put in the effort to learn the basics. It might sound nit-picky, but why risk alienating a potential match with something so easy to fix?
- Mentioning sex: The word “sex” should not be anywhere in your profile. Not even as a, “Let’s be honest, I’m a guy, so of course I think about sex…” kind of thing. And definitely don’t list it in the six things you can’t do without. Mentioning sex turns many women off even in an otherwise thoughtful and well-written profile. The only instance I feel it’s appropriate to talk about sex or list “casual sex” as something that you’re looking for is if it’s all you’re looking for. If you’re even remotely open to the possibility of a relationship, don’t mention it.
- The “Don’t contact me if” list: I recommend removing this kind of list in general, but especially if it mentions requirements for appearance. It’s best to avoid listing specific physical characteristics that you’re either looking for or not. If you have a thing where you only date blondes or won’t date a woman who’s even a few pounds overweight, you could mention it, but know that you might also scare away women who meet those criteria because they’ll see you as shallow.
- Misusing the IM Feature: This might just be me, but I don’t like getting IMs from random guys who haven’t messaged me before. I’ve never had those conversations go beyond exchanging a few lines of awkward conversation. Even if the girl’s online, start with a message, and save the IMs for later.
- Sending stock messages: It’s tempting to send a quick, “Hey, how’s it going?” to a girl to see if she’s interested, and maybe if you have a profile she likes, you’ll get away with it. But as women, we get messages like that all the time. If I had a dollar for every, “Hey cutie how r u?” message I’ve gotten, I could buy myself a subscription to a paid dating site. It’s always more effective to include at least one or two questions specific to a girl’s profile. You don’t have to write a novel (actually, definitely don’t, because that seems weird and will make you resentful if the girl doesn’t answer). But include one or two specifics and at least one question for her to answer.
- “Nice guy” syndrome: Avoid using the phrase “nice guy” when describing yourself. If you’re really a nice guy, your profile and messages will show us that. This is a newer red flag for women, but if you keep insisting that you’re “really a nice guy,” we might wonder if you’re hiding behind that phrase for some reason, or what baggage led you to feel the need to include it.
- Making serial killer or rape jokes: This is something I’ve personally come across enough times to be concerned. I anticipate a lot of eye rolling in response to this rule, but making a joke about either being or not being a serial killer, stalker, or rapist is not funny. You have to understand that as women, these are very real and legitimate concerns that are constantly on our minds, especially while talking to strangers online. If you’re a decent guy, your goal should be to make a woman feel safe and comfortable while talking to you. You’ll only hurt yourself by making jokes at the expense of her safety.
Just remember that it’s always best to be honest about who you are and to communicate with women in a respectful and thoughtful manner. If you keep that in mind and follow these guidelines, you’ll have a much better chance of getting messages and responses from women on online dating sites.
Alana Saltz is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She's been in the L.A. online dating scene for several years and has pretty much seen it all. To learn more about her, please visit her website at http://alanasaltz.com or follow her on Twitter @alanasaltz.