21 ways to win the online dating game

The new rules of engagement

By Jane Hoskyn
Online dating is a great way to meet loads of men (or one perfect man), but it’s a tricky art to master. You can’t rely on eye contact, body language tricks or smelling nice. Instead, you need to follow a few unspoken rules about flirting from a distance.
Before you click ‘done’ on your online dating ad, real these tips to maximise your chances of snaring the right man.

1. Think like your ideal man
People like people who are like themselves. So, to get your perfect man, try to sound a bit like him in your dating ad. If you’re after someone dry and sarcastic, inject that tone into your advert. Just not so much that you sound like Brian off Family Guy.

2. Stand out from the crowd
So you “love music, travel and spending time with friends.” Sorry, our heads just turned inside out from yawning.

3. “Good sense of humour” is banned
Online daters who write “I’ve got a great sense of humour” mean: “There is nothing particularly interesting about me, except that I am really quite desperate. If you’ve got two eyes, hands and feet, I will sleep with you.”

4. Beware the cliché
From “I want my lover to be my best friend” to “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” clichés are the bricks out of which a million dating ads are built. Do not use them. They are to online dating what the stringy bits are to a banana.

5. Don’t insult your audience
Here’s another reason not to write “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” By questioning the wisdom or coolness of online dating, you’re also insulting your reader. On a similar vein, it’s unwise to say things like: “All men are bad-smelling freaks who can’t chew their food properly. Please prove me wrong.”

6. Modesty is a turn-off

Self-deprecation must be handled with great care. There’s a very fine line between witty and insecure. “I can’t cook, but I’m dynamite where it matters” is fine. “I’m pretty boring” is not.

7. … and so is bragging
Confidence is sexy; arrogance is not. If you don’t know the difference, that may be why you’re single.

8. Never admit that your friend wrote your profile
“I asked my friend to describe me, and here’s what she wrote” will be translated in men’s minds into: “I am neither smart nor self-aware enough to write it myself, and I have issues with basic spelling and grammar. My friend is really hot, though.”

9. Zip up your baggage
Naturally, you have a rollercoaster history of exes, hang-ups and maybe a nervous breakdown or two. But never allude to this in an email to some bloke you’re flirting with. If you feel the need to hint at any baggage in your dating ad, slap yourself round the face with a bag of frozen peas and go for a lie down.

10. Ditch the wish list
If your ad comprises a list of your desired qualities (brown eyes, short hair, between 5’10” and 6’, age 28 to 31, from north-east Birmingham, fluent in Mandarin), you’ll have three problems. Firstly, no-one will meet your demands. Secondly, the bloke you fall for will be completely different. Thirdly, you sound like a control freak. Fourthly, that’s your ex, isn’t it? OK that’s enough lists.

11. Don’t even think about leaving out the photo
If you don’t upload a photo, you’re saying: “I am married,” “I am due in court next month” or “I am so ugly I didn’t want to risk showing anyone what I look like.” Upload a photo.

12. Don’t leave it at just one photo
A single photo is not a reliable representation of you, and men will know this. Besides, they’re visual creatures. Give their eyes something to lust over. But…

13. Don’t lie with the camera
An outrageously flattering photo will earn you loads of drooling replies. Then one of those men will meet you in person, and his face will freeze as he realises that your photo was taken 10 years, five stone and 500 wrinkles ago.

14. Put your clothes on
A photo with your cleavage hanging out makes you look desperate.
15. Playing hard to get doesn’t work
If you do nothing to contact anyone on the site, you’ll still get plenty of emails – from men who sit there all day and night hitting ‘write message’ on every female ad. They’re not fussy, and you won’t like them. If you want the best men, be proactive.

16. Say hello – and not much more
When you’re browsing the men’s ads and you see one or some that you like, don’t introduce yourself with an epic love letter. They’ll think you’re a lunatic. The way to intrigue a man is to pick out a couple of appealing points in his ad and fire off a quick note of interest. Do no more – if he likes your ad, he’ll write back.

17. If you don’t fancy him, don’t write to him
So you got a message from a bloke who doesn’t float your boat. Commiserations – it’ll happen every day. Please don’t bother replying to him. “Thanks but no thanks” can feel more hurtful than no reply.

18. If you do fancy him, write back
You won’t keep a man keen by making him wait days for your reply. Time moves fast in online dating. On the other hand, don’t write back so fast that he thinks you’re squatting on the keyboard.

19. Meet quickly, or stop emailing
Don’t allow an email conversation to drag on for weeks without a date. You may think you’re “connecting”, but you can’t judge chemistry unless you meet up. Six emails in total – not each – are enough to know whether you want a date.

20. Don’t expect too much from a first date
You’re meeting a stranger, remember. There’s a fair chance that one of you will feel a spark and the other doesn’t, or that there’ll be no chemistry at all. It may take many dates to find a man you like. Enjoy the ride.

21. If you like him, ring him the next day
Ignore those rules about waiting three days to get in touch. If you like a man and you felt some chemistry on the date, you have nothing to lose by letting him know. If he’s interested, he’ll be happy that you called. If he’s not interested, at least you’ll know – and you can move on to the dating ad..