Writing Your Personal Ad:
Making a Good First Impression

Writing your personal ad - There are no second chances at making a spectacular first impression. Those first few seconds of contact, even in a personal ad, become a benchmark for every subsequent impression you make. We are a world in a hurry, an accelerated pace keeps us competitive, instant assumptions often lead to immediate decisions to accept or reject a job, a deal, or even a potential lover.

In romance, many of us, especially anyone who has been around the block, take a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) approach. Why second-guess the obvious? In just under ten seconds, enough time to read the first few lines of an email, glance at a personal ad profile or extend your hand and offer a friendly "hello," someone is forming a first and lasting impression of you. Is it a good one?

Your Profile As A First Impression

Your personal ad profile is a uniquely personal introduction. Think of it as equivalent to not only what you say when first meeting a potential date, but also what you are wearing, your posture, eye contact, the firmness of your handshake--even your makeup, perfume or cologne. While there is no one style of writing personal ads that suits everyone, a charming, humorous, poignant, creative or otherwise distinctly unique approach may improve your results when writing a personal ad.

Likewise, there are some general breeches of romantic protocol and self-expression that should be avoided. You wouldn't show up late, wear a soiled jacket, or chew with your mouth open on a first date at a fine restaurant, so don't behave inappropriately or to your romantic detriment in your personal ad.

· Use an uncommon or striking headline in your personal ad. Avoid boring demographic descriptions like "SF Seeks SM for LTR." Instead, have some fun. Be daring! Elicit an emotion! Express yourself!

If you're feeling like expressing yourself in a daring, adventurous way, try these concepts in your personal ad at AltMatch.com, or check out some of the other choices at left.

· Proofread. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are as important in your personal ad as content. Think of the presentation of your message in your personal ad as a way of dressing for a date. While clothes don't make the man (or woman), no one wants to appear shoddy or unkempt.

· Say it with style. What you say may not be as important as how you say it. Play with language. Write poetry. Tell a story. Perform stand-up comedy.

· Be less-than perfect. Regardless of the style you choose or the language you use to express yourself in your personal ad, be careful not to extol your many virtues to the point of boredom, or even suspicion. No one can be that perfect. Your minor faults and charming inconsistencies make you human, interesting and approachable.

· Avoid sending up red flags. Don't whine, complain or drivel on about any problems in your life. Refrain from casting yourself in the role of the victim, the egregiously wronged, or the emotionally mortally wounded. Never use the word "desperate," or bring up war stories from past relationships. Be positive and optimistic in your personal ad. Chaos, depression and drama aren't attractive attributes.

With these concepts fresh in your mind, you may want to try writing a free personal ad now and browse photos of singles at Match.com.
Your Email As A First Impression

Your first email is like the beginning of a cocktail party conversation. Introduce yourself appropriately. Listen as much as you talk. Show interest in the other person. Be confident, but also genuine. Make eye contact. Connect.

As with your personal ad profile, first emails should follow basic rules for presentation and content. Experiment and find a style that works for you. Use the subject line like a headline, proofread, be creative, positive and genuine. Avoid anything canned or trite.

Pick-up lines don't work and you will rarely make a good first impression, or get a response using one. First emails should always be individually written and work best when conversational in style. Mention something about the recipient's profile.

Where did you sense a connection? Ask a question or two and include some brief information about yourself. It's OK to flirt or tease a little, even during your first contact, but keep things light and friendly.

First Impressions In The Real World

If all goes well, your spectacular profile and carefully crafted emails will eventually lead to a first date in the real world. Although you may feel as though you already know each other, you have yet to become familiar with each other's physical presence, and that can take some getting used to. First face-to-face encounters can be awkward or even shocking, regardless of the positive feelings you already have for each other.

You make your best real-world first impression by just being yourself. Enjoy the nervous energy you are feeling. Have fun. Smile. People are perceived as more attractive when they are having a good time. Your date will form an immediate first (physical) impression of you, usually in under ten seconds, based on some combination of these attributes:

posture; walk; body language; attire; physical characteristics; smile/facial features; handshake; grooming; scent/perfume; eye contact; perceived confidence; perceived comfortableness

Inside Information On Positive And Negative Impressions

Several hundred single men and women attending dating and flirting classes were asked to list the attributes they find attractive and unattractive in a potential partner. Below is a list of the most frequent responses. Although many of these attributes may not be immediately apparent, most will show up sometime during a first date.

Attributes Leading To A Positive Impression:

warmth; sense of humor; imagination; confidence; success; fitness; individuality; body language; conversational ability; aspiration; power; creativity; kindness

Attributes Leading To A Negative Impression:

self-centered; closed minded and judgmental; lack of manners; poor conversational ability; negative life attitude; lack of education; immature; indecisive/without an opinion; lack of integrity; war stories from past relationships; whining and complaining; shallowness; only interested in sex; power games and manipulation; materialistic

There are no do-overs when it comes to first impressions, yet many of us fail to put our best foot forward during early romantic encounters. We want to be loved for who we are and are leery to "package" ourselves in any way. This is understandable, but not always realistic. Dating is a numbers game and, like it or not, dating occurs in a competitive environment. The next positive, first romantic impression you make may turn into life-long love -- not a bad return on a relatively minor investment.

Take the first step towards making a great first impression. Look through photos for free and create your personal ad profile at Match.com or AltMatch.com.

by Trish McDermott

Mix 'n Match Copyright (c) 1999 OneandOnly.com Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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3 Secrets of Successful Personal Ads

More advice from Match.com:

When you’re surrounded by millions of other personal ad profiles, how can you make sure the people you want to meet actually notice you? Start by checking your matches. Then create a profile that will capture their interest. Make it exciting. Make it special. Make it stand out.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Your headline. Browsing through Search Results is like being in a room full of potential mates. With so many personal ads to choose from, you have to depend on first impressions. Your headline is one of the first impressions you make, so it had better be good!

· Make it unique. "Looking For Love" or "Seeking My Match" is too generic and won’t set you apart from the crowd. Remember that your headline is one of the first things other members will see; set aside a few minutes to make it special.

· Play up your best features. Pick the most appealing or distinctive aspect of your personality. "Warm, Affectionate Man Seeks Hand To Hold In His," "Gourmet Wants To Cook Romantic Dinners For Two," "Yes! There IS A Woman Who’d Love To Watch Football With You Every Sunday!" It’s important to send a message that your match will receive loud and clear.

· Be clever but clear. Don’t assume strangers will understand your sense of humor. Be clever, but also give people a reason to read your profile. Something like, "Fat, Ugly And Stupid Seeks Thin, Gorgeous And Brilliant" doesn’t work (would that make you want to click or move on?).

· Be realistic. "Prince Seeks Princess" and "Looking To Live The Fairy Tale Life" suggests that you need to get your feet back on the ground. Try not to set yourself up as an object of pity by using the words "lonely" or "desperate," as in "Lonely Lady Seeks LTR" or "Desperately Seeking Soulmate." Are you looking for someone who is lonely or desperate? Neither is anyone else. And surely there are more enticing ways to describe yourself!

2. Your personal ad profile. Once your headline makes someone want to learn more about you, the trick is to keep his or her attention. Don’t feel like you have to sell yourself; just be open and honest. Ask a friend to help you write your profile, and have another friend read it afterwards. Keep the following advice in mind to help you create a winning profile.

· Get to the point. Avoid beginning by complaining about how hard it is to write a profile or find a quality mate; everyone here has to do just that. Dive right into describing yourself and what makes you tick.

· Focus on your strengths. Write about your hobbies, involvement in your community, interesting work or travels—whatever it is that makes you special. Think about your ideal match, and write as though you’re talking specifically to that person.

· Be honest. An "avid tennis player" is not someone who started taking lessons last weekend. The walk from your desk to the parking lot—no matter how briskly you do it—does not count as "exercises daily". Remember that your match will assume everything you write to be true; once you decide to meet offline, you don’t want any uncomfortable surprises.

· Be realistic. The words you choose in your personal ad can alienate potential matches, so go easy on phrases like "drop-dead gorgeous" and "looking for the perfect mate." Set your expectations high, but keep them real too.

· Describe what's important to you. Don’t be afraid to mention qualities that are important to you in a relationship; loyalty, the ability to communicate and listen, intelligence and humor are good examples. Put those qualities front and center, and avoid emphasizing characteristics that are less important to you. Give some thought to why your best relationships have worked well and why the worst worked so badly; maybe you’ll discover a pattern there.

· Check your spelling and grammar. Your personal ad profile tells your potential matches what to expect from you in an offline conversation; it’s all anyone really has to determine your personality and your ability to communicate. Although it might be completely unfair to assume, misspelled words can make people judge you as being uneducated or illiterate. Take a few extra minutes to check your spelling. Try writing your profile in a word processing application first; run spell check, make corrections and copy the text into your profile.

3. Your photo. Did you know that profiles with photos are eight times more likely to generate responses from other members? And as with all other aspects of your profile, the photo you choose says something about you; make sure you’re delivering the message you intended.

· Keep it real. Don’t be deceptive with your photo choice. That means everything from not choosing a clean-shaven photo if you’ve just grown a goatee to not posting a photo from two years ago, right after you lost all the weight that you’ve since regained. And please, whatever you do, don’t use someone else’s photo instead of your own. Remember that you’re going to have to live up to the image you present, so make sure it resembles the real you.

· It’s all about you. Choose a photo that features you by yourself. A group doesn’t make you the center of attention; in fact, it may even make it difficult for your match to determine who you are. Would you want to make it all the way to a first date only to find that your match actually was interested in your friend, the one who was third from the left?

· Go in for your closeup. Photos taken from a distance end up stealing the focus away from you. Even though you’re proud of your new car or boat or your recently acquired ability to hang glide, keep in mind that your matches want to see your face; they want to be able to associate what you look like with how you describe yourself in your profile.

· Focus on quality. The attention your photo gets should be positive. Choose a good, clear, current close-up of your face as your primary photo; additional photos can include full body shots or pictures of you with your pet. Make sure the photo is well-cropped and doesn’t cut off the top of your head (leaving your matches to wonder if there’s hair there). And remember to smile!

Ready to get started writing a personal ad profile?

Find singles who are looking for dates, see photos of singles, and create your free profile at Match.com.

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