You Probably Shouldn't Write That

Tips and Tricks for Creating an Online Dating Profile That Doesn't Suck


By Lisa Hoehn

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Dating virtuoso and profile expert Lisa Hoehn has helped thousands of people meet, date, and fall in love (or into bed). In You Probably Shouldn’t Write That, she offers a complete, no-nonsense approach to becoming the most attractive person on any dating site or app, including: Figuring out WTF to write, Choosing your most flattering photos, Attracting the right people, Sending that perfect message.

Whether you’re sharpening your profile, starting fresh, or looking to try a new site, Lisa will help you stop wasting time, energy, and money — and start getting the dates you deserve.




             Tinder, eHarmony, FarmersOnly—the Lowdown on Which Apps and Sites Won’t Waste Your Time

There are dozens upon dozens of online dating sites and apps out there, and more are being added to the world every day—think Hinge and Happn. This means it can be daunting when you’re ready to take the plunge into the world of virtual romance. Which site (or sites) should you sign up for, and which will waste your time? The answer is that it all depends on what you’re looking for—and how you want to find it.

The abundance of choices has led many of my clients to make one of three key mistakes. One 54-year-old female client committed the first error: signing up for the wrong sites entirely. She was looking for a committed relationship when she asked me, “I just don’t understand why I can’t meet anyone on Tinder or OkCupid. All of the matches and messages that I get are from younger men who have (sometimes pretty gross) sexual fantasies about being with an older woman. What am I doing wrong?”

Then there was the 29-year-old who committed the next sin: signing up for every site under the sun. He was on no fewer than five platforms at once and didn’t realize that spreading himself so thin was bound to make matching less effective—after all, he had less time and energy to devote to each site and ended up doing a half-assed job with all of them. It’s not only harder to keep track of your matches when you do this, but it’s also harder to be an engaged enough user to really get to know the intricacies of a platform and use it to its full potential.

And then there was the 33-year-old guy who was so confused by all the sites that he just got . . . well, stuck. “I’m so overwhelmed—I have no idea which site will work for me and which ones will be duds,” he lamented.

But as the cliché goes, knowledge is power, and understanding the ins and outs of the major online dating platforms can not only save you time, energy, and money, but ultimately lead you to your perfect match.

Each of the sites discussed below works in a slightly different way to find you the Cheech to your Chong, but on the screen, they’re pretty similar. Each features a profile that you, the user, must fill out. These profiles consist not only of a place to upload personal photos of yourself, but also a text box (or text boxes) wherein you’re urged to write unique and original copy to help other users get to know the real you and assess whether you might be compatible.

So where should you invest your time and maybe even your money? Here’s the lowdown on the world’s top sites and apps.


Best for ages: 18–35 years old

Cash: Free; paid upgrade to Tinder Plus $9.99/month for users 29 years old and younger; $19.99/month for users 30 and over

Looking for: casual sex, casual and short-term dating—but hey, you never know

The lowdown: Tinder, a smartphone app, hit the scene and exploded in popularity faster than hipsters invaded Brooklyn and San Francisco. Some estimates claim that it now has more than 100 million users—and those users are incredibly engaged. They spend more time on the app than they do scrolling through their newsfeeds, and this makes matching fast and furious.

Tinder is different from other sites in that there is an optional written bio of no more than 500 characters, leaving you mostly with between one and six photos to decide whether you’re interested. To start, you must connect to the app via your Facebook account. After you’ve set your preferences (the age and gender(s) of your matches and the distance you’re willing to travel to meet someone), Tinder uses your phone’s GPS to find others who are active in your area. It then shows you a prospective match’s main photo; his or her first name, age, and written bio if there is one; as well as whether or not you have any friends or liked Facebook pages in common (information taken directly from your Facebook account). Tap on the profile image of your potential match to scroll through his or her other photos, and when you’ve decided whether or not you’re into him or her, you swipe right, indicating that you “like” someone, or swipe left, giving that person a big “nope.” If and only if you both swipe right, you and your match are given a chance to chat within the app.

Tinder also allows you to connect your Instagram feed directly to your account, allowing potential matches to browse your dozens of food pics (and of course, cat pics and selfies), and sports a feature called “moments,” with which you can share a photo for twenty-four hours with all those you have matched with, to show them what you’re doing, thinking, or looking at—much like a romance-inspired Snapchat.

So what’s the deal? On its face Tinder is the most superficial of all the sites, which is why it at first garnered a reputation as a hookup haven. Most of its users eschew a written profile entirely or include text about the length of a tweet, leaving photos to tell their stories. The company claims that users analyze these pics for more than just good looks, taking into account everything from choice of clothing to activity to location—but let’s be real: the beautiful people of the world end up with tons more matches than those not blessed with a perfectly symmetrical face.

But the app has made online dating into a game like no other site before it. Swiping through matches is often referred to as “playing,” and the company reinforces this, using the same language within the app itself. Of course this doesn’t come without problems. I know of many men who simply swipe right on every woman who pops up—giving them the option of chatting with anyone and everyone who also swipes right—but with little intention of starting a conversation with the vast majority of their matches. And while this strategy could also be employed by females, in my experience, women aren’t nearly as likely to connect with matches whom they probably, well, aren’t really interested in connecting with.

What’s more, without the presence of an honest-to-goodness profile, conversations can be pretty lame. “Hey,” and “What’s up” seem to be the most common conversation starters, and given that there’s no substance to them, chatting often fizzles quickly. Of course there’s always the occasional person who decides to ask an inane question in the hopes that being unique will prompt a response, but “So, do you like avocados?” isn’t exactly what I’d call conversational (or social) wizardry.

But Tinder has managed to crack a code that no other dating site had done before it: making online dating fun and extremely easy. There’s little stress in creating a profile, and the hours that you spend working your way through potential mates fly by in a sea of exciting new right swipes and empowering “nopes!” If there had been any stigma left in finding romance via the Internet, Tinder did away with it. And probably most important, the app has taken rejection almost entirely out of the picture. You’re swiping through at such speed that it’s nearly impossible to remember if you swiped right on someone you didn’t match with—and even if you do remember, being passed over with a swipe is far easier to shake off than if you had spent time crafting what seemed like the perfect message.

The bottom line: Tinder is fun, easy, and fast—but thanks to its lack of a substantive profile (and therefore lack of information given), it’s best used in conjunction with another dating platform.


Best for ages: 22–33 years old

Cash: Free, with optional paid upgraded membership: $8.50/month for a 6-month subscription

Looking for: casual sex, casual dating, possible frustration

The lowdown: Plenty of Fish (or POF, as it’s known) is the world’s second largest dating platform, with around 23 million unique monthly users. After you fill in a range of information about yourself—everything from whether you’re a smoker to whether you have a car to where you fall in birth order—the site’s matching algorithm uses information that it has gleaned from couples who left the site in a relationship to learn “which combinations of backgrounds, values, physical attributes, and interests form compatible, lasting relationships.” This algorithm also sports a few hard and fast rules—for example, it won’t pair you with a smoker or someone with children if you’ve declared either to be a deal-breaker.

The site then presents you with matches it deems appropriate under a “my matches” header (with premium and extremely active members appearing at the top of your list), but also allows you to browse the site freely, using the search feature to find matches who haven’t necessarily been cleared or chosen by the algorithm.

Women can send private images to users of their choosing, although this feature has been disabled for men due to “nudity” (aka too many dick pics).

Finally, there are forums that offer you another place to connect with members, whether you’re looking for relationship or profile advice, a place to talk to (and maybe meet) other single parents, or just somewhere to chat about topics from cooking to travel.

So what’s the deal? Although POF claims to be the world’s largest online dating site, it isn’t—and though it also claims that its matching algorithm is sound, many users complain that the only thing they have in common with their matches is their area code. What’s more, some users say POF’s Web site is clunky, ugly, and difficult to use. Its features are often reported to have bugs, and members complain that the site’s population is generally less than committed to online dating, with many users who log in infrequently if at all and who rarely return messages—not to mention that this apathy tends to show in their profiles.

Plenty of Fish also still has a hookup site reputation, garnered early on when it sported a feature called “Intimate Encounters” for adults who wanted some no-strings fun, though this service was done away with in 2013 when the founder claimed that he wanted the site to be about “relationships.” With this change, new rules were also implemented; for example, you can’t message someone more than fourteen years older or younger than you, and users are urged to report lewd photos or sexual first messages. In spite of all this, when you type “Plenty of Fish” into Google, there are plenty of hits that refer to it as a sleazy site for easy fun.

The bottom line: Plenty of Fish makes plenty of assertions about its standards and its matching abilities, but many of its users are unhappy. Its biggest advantages are free membership and sheer volume of users—so if you’ve exhausted other sites and not found anyone in your area, POF may provide new options. But in all likelihood, you’re better off dropping your line in other waters.


Best for ages: 22–45 years old

Cash: Free, with optional paid A-list membership: $4.95/month for a 6-month subscription

Looking for: Pretty much anything and everything: friends, casual sex, kinky sex, casual dating, relationships, and marriage

The lowdown: OkCupid claims to be the fastest-growing online dating site and uses a special algorithm, invented by a group of Harvard mathematicians, to match users. How? The site provides hundreds of multiple-choice questions for you to answer at your leisure.

The topics range from sex to movie preferences, politics to smoking habits, and everything in between. Each question consists of several parts, which indicate both your own answer to the question and the answer that your ideal match would give.

For example, OkCupid will ask: “Are you either vegetarian or vegan?”

You answer, in multiple-choice format, “Yes” or “No.”

Then you tell the OkCupid computer which answer your perfect match would give: “Yes,” “No,” or “Any of the above” (the last indicating you have no preference).

Finally, you specify how important it is to you that your match answer in your ideal way: “A little,” “Somewhat,” or “Very.”

If you want to explain the reasoning behind your answer or the requirements you have given, there’s a text box to make your case. For example, if you answered that you were, in fact, vegetarian or vegan, that your perfect match would also be a vegetarian or vegan, and that this trait is “very” important to you, you could explain in the text box: “I watched Food Inc. and was never the same again.”

Your answers to these questions, unless you choose otherwise, are public on the site. More important, they’re also used to calculate a “match percentage” with other users. As long as you answer enough of these questions, answer them honestly, and know what you want in a suitor, OkCupid says it can “find someone who claims to fulfill your claimed requirements, exactly.” Theoretically, the higher your match percentage is with another user, the better match you would be in person.

From the moment that you’re signed in—with or without a completed profile and whether or not you have answered any multiple-choice questions—you’re free to roam around the site, checking out other users’ profiles, rating them on a one-to five-star scale, and sending them messages to catch their attention.

Feel like giving users a more personal look into your life? Just like on Tinder, you’re free to connect your Instagram feed to your profile.

So what’s the deal? No matter who or what you’re looking for, you can find it on OkCupid. Because the site is free and only requires an e-mail address (and not even a valid one at that), every kind of person has a profile. Granted, this has given the platform a bit of a “looking for something casual” stigma, but don’t be fooled—there’s a lot more depth to this site.

The key to making OkCupid work for you is a combination of having a killer profile and taking those match questions seriously. While they’re in no way perfect, the more you answer, the more the site can tell what you have in common with different people, and the more accurate your match percentage is going to be. Is answering those questions a pain in the ass sometimes? Yes. But people who cast them aside and immediately dive into the infinite profiles are missing out on the feature that sets OkCupid apart from its competitors.

One warning: Of all of the clients I’ve worked with, there have been very few over the age of forty five who have been happy on this platform—probably because most of their peers have bitten the bullet and turned to a paid platform.

The bottom line: OkCupid is fantastic for its variety and matching algorithm especially when you’re young, but if and when you’re exclusively seeking something serious, it can be frustrating to have to wade through the wide array of the site’s different types of users.


           Skip the multiple-choice questions that don’t matter to you in the long haul (“Do you enjoy scary movies?” comes to mind) and instead answer questions that you feel strongly about, marking them “very important.” If you have deal-breakers, your answers to these multiple-choice questions allow you to voice them without resorting to negativity in your written profile.

           Vary the topics of the questions that you answer. If you’re only answering questions about politics, OkCupid will categorize you as being “very political.” The same goes for religion and sex. In addition, incorporating a range of topics in your answers will make you a more well-rounded user, and your match percentages will be more accurate.

           When you’re viewing a match’s profile in a browser, click the tab “The Two of Us” and use the side panel to sort the questions. My favorites to sort by are, “Unacceptable answers,” then “Things that are important to him/her.” Sorting by unacceptable answers immediately lets you know whether you’ll tolerate that person’s views—and by sorting what’s important to him or her, you’ll get a sense of that person’s values compared to your own.

           To keep your profile private, access your “general settings” and click the box that says, “Only allow other OkCupid members to visit my profile.” This will stop your page from showing up in a Google search.


Best for ages: 27+ years old

Cash: Paid: $20.99/month for a 6-month basic membership; $23.99/month for a 6-month bundle membership

Looking for: dating, relationships, marriage

The lowdown: If you believe that with age comes wisdom, might be the site for you—founded in 1995, the platform boasts that more than 75 million profiles have been uploaded since its launch. The site works by asking you for information on everything from your height to your stance on issues from politics to religion—and then continues to ask for your preferences for those same characteristics in your ideal match.

From there, you can click on “mutual matches” to view users with whom you pair highly given your (and their) stated preferences, use the “reverse search” tool to view users who are looking to date someone like you, or just click on the search tab and enter any criteria that you’re looking for in a match at that moment. You’re then free to send messages and “winks” to whomever you please.

But isn’t just a free-for-all. Using an algorithm officially called “Synapse,” the site also takes into account its users’ perceived preferences and attempts to match you with compatible users. So if a woman’s preferences state that she won’t date a man who’s under six foot two but is constantly checking out guys who are five foot eight, like a good friend, will infer that height isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. Then, in the form of a “Daily Matches” e-mail, the site will send her previously unseen matches who may be shorter than six foot two even though that goes against what she says she wants. requires you to rate the matches it sends you to continue receiving these e-mails and continues to tweak your matches based on the preferences you feed it.

Currently,’s user base has marginally more women than men and consists mainly of thirty to forty-nine-year-olds. Not to be outdone, though, users ages fifty and over are currently its fastest-growing demographic.

So what’s the deal? In my experience, the vast majority of’s users are looking for something more serious than casual sex or simple friendships—and are often more committed to making real connections in


On Sale
Dec 22, 2015
Page Count
144 pages
Running Press

Lisa Hoehn

About the Author

Lisa Hoehn is the founder of, a successful online dating profile makeover service. She lives in New York City where she’s consumed dozens of glasses of wine in search of the perfect date spot.

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