Article #1: Putting Your Heart Online

Article #2: Tips on Taking Your Cyber-Romance Into the Real World!

Article #3: Romance on LOVE@AOL

Article #4: The Top Ways You Know You're Dating in The Virtual Age

Putting Your Heart Online

CREATING A SUCCESSFUL AD

by Nancy Capulet

Online personal ads tend to be much longer than their newspaper counterparts. So you can include a lot of information about yourself and what you're looking for. This article should help you to decide what to include in your ad. I address questions such as:

* What should you say about yourself?
* What should you leave out?
* What phrases turn people on and off?
* When are white lies acceptable?
* How can you get people to notice your ad?
* What should you write in your headline?

What to Put in Your Ad
I wish I could give you one tip that you could follow to find your lifelong mate online. Unfortunately, there is no one simple path.

Look at other ads, especially those of your competitors---people of your sex seeking the same sort of people who interest you. Gather up the ones that you like. What appeals to you about those ads?

Exercise: Which Ads Appeal To You
A career counselor once told me to look through a newspaper and to find the job ads that interested me, regardless of whether I was qualified for them. She advised me to learn what I want in a job by analyzing the types of positions that appealed to me. Why not do the same with online ads?

Look at some ads and answer the following questions:
* What are your first impressions of the people who wrote these profiles?
* What phrases grab your attention?
* What phrases turn you off?
* Which ads make you want to ask or tell the author something?
* How do you think the ads can be improved?
* What about the ad most appeals to you?

Sell Yourself
When you place an ad, you are marketing yourself. Describe your endearing qualities, the ones that make you special. Share what's wonderful about you and your life. Tell why another person would want to be with you.

Emphasize your strengths and what you have to offer. Don't dwell on your limitations. Show people why it's to their advantage to get to know you. That's what Anna did:

I've sailed the Atlantic, modeled for the L.L. Bean catalog, qualified as a Cordon Bleu chef, read the classics, tasted the best wines in Europe, and owned my own businesses. But I'm still searching for the true love of my life. One of my degrees is in Marine Biology (when I was four I wanted to be a sea otter when I grew up). I love water and the outdoors but also love getting dressed up in a little black dress and "doing" the city. I ADORE being feminine. I'm tall, leggy, athletic, with reddish-blond hair, hazel eyes, a friendly smile, and freckles on my nose. I'm in great shape--(mountain biking may have something to do with that--I intend never to look close to my age). Some of my other passions include a great circle of friends and family all over the world, reading (The Economist is my favorite magazine...but I never miss a chance to peek at People in the checkout line), animals (Labradors are my weakness--I have a black female puppy), Paris, fresh flowers, copper pans, islands, mountains, horses, Van Morrison, Celtic and Blues music, single malts, hiking (I live in a cabin on 100 acres on top of a mountain in wine country) ... but most of all I love laughing, having fun, and trying to see the Monty Python/Gary Larson side of life while experiencing the sensuous hedonistic pleasures that life has to offer. I'm described by my companions as an outgoing, romantic, optimist ... never boring and a true friend. So, what am I looking for? You are tall, handsome (yes--I admit to being slightly superficial), sexy, savvy, successful and make me laugh. In an ideal world you drive a Land Rover or Jeep, wear Eddie Bauer/Gap/Banana Republic type duds and Ray Bans. (I'm not--and probably never will be--into beards, New Age/Left/Vegetarian types.) You are well educated (streetwise and academically), and someone who not only knows how to dream but has experience in turning dreams into reality. Are you for me?

Anna, who is forty-eight, is delighted with the responses that she received. Several men offered to fly out to San Francisco to meet her. After she talked on the telephone for about thirty hours with George, he flew down from British Columbia. They are now talking about getting married. If it hadn't been for putting their ads online, their paths never would have crossed.

Be Honest
Honesty should be a guiding principle for personal ads. You may get more responses if you subtract thirty pounds from your weight or add three inches to your height, but what happens the first time you meet? Your date's thought will be: ``You lied.''

As a research project, I decided to see whether I would receive more responses if I lied by reporting my age as lower than it is. My first dilemma was what age to list. I was 41. I considered listing my age as 34, 35, 36, or 37. I chose 35 because I thought men who were interested in having children would prefer women who are at most 35.

My next dilemma was deciding when to reveal my true age to the wonderful men who contacted me. The initial few people who responded I told in my first email. A few of these men never wrote back. Consequently, I decided to tell men when I first met them so they would see for themselves that I could easily pass for less than my age.

When I met David, he innocently asked when I had studied at UC Berkeley, thinking that we must have been there at the same time---but I had been there six years earlier. Rather than tell another lie, I told him my age. Luckily, David was understanding. Many men would have been turned off.

Lying about my age, I received nearly fifty percent more responses than when I reported my age accurately. But regardless of when I confessed the truth, I felt bad about lying. The men I met might think, ``Since she lied about her age, what else might she be concealing?'' Instead of lying, it would be better to say that I prefer men my own age or younger. Now I understand why people advise being honest. Lies tend to get you into trouble. Be honest. That's exactly what Florence did:

Look, if you want a shallow Cindy Crawford clone, that's not me. I'm more a case of still waters running deep. What do I mean by that? I'm a large, quiet woman on the surface, with a strong passionate undercurrent. Well, to tell you a little more about me: I sometimes refer to myself as an original WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) woman. I have brown hair with a few silver threads, which I have no intention of coloring. My eyes are hazel (standard brown/green/blue-grey) and my skin is fair. I'm 5'10", and currently about 240, although that is falling. I prefer old VWs to new BMWs, and don't do sushi. I would rather cuddle than do aerobics, go someplace like Yosemite than Las Vegas, take a quiet walk with someone special to roller-blading (never been, probably never will), and have an intimate dinner for two than a formal banquet for two hundred. I'm intelligent and strong-willed, but also the most supportive person you'll probably ever meet. I am a stickler for integrity. I try my darnedest not to deceive others, won't tolerate being deceived, and refuse to be a party to an innocent person (like a wife) being deceived. I am looking for someone confident enough in himself to take me on, and accept and appreciate me for who I am. If you're interested and not allergic to cats, drop me a line!

This ad served its purpose. It attracted many men, including Mark, Florence's husband.

When you describe yourself honestly and accurately, you tend to receive fewer responses because you don't compare favorably with most other people who exaggerate their good points. Should you stop being honest? No. Your goal should be the quality of responses, not their quantity. You may need to emphasize more of your good qualities, or change words that may be turning people off, but you'll do best in the long run if you are honest.

Grab Their Attention
As they do in a newspaper, a bold headline for an ad grabs people's attention. When Andy, after his divorce, wrote his first ad, he used the headline ``First Date in Ten Years!?'' The headline was true and captured the mixed feelings that Andy had about being single again. He got over a dozen responses!

Here are examples of catchy headlines:

* I WANT IT ALL!!! (And here's what you get in return)
* Humor, Brains, and Heart---for Long-Term Partnership and Family
* Just Your Basic Nice Guy (it could be worse!)
* Looking for Knight for All My Nights to Come
* Olympic Medalist, Harvard MBA, Ph.D., Model, Brain Surgeon, and Fortune 100 CEO Seeking Goddess
* My Computer's Connected, but I'm Not
* Looking for Collaborator: Will it be a romance, nonfiction, or comedy?
* Looking for a woman who is willing to lie about how we met

Show Your Personality and Your Passions
Shine! You'll be more likely to attract the sort of person you want. Use words, phrases, and language that represent you well.

Instead of listing your outstanding qualities, demonstrate them. If you like poetry, include an example. Tell a story about yourself and the person whom you hope to meet:

In my dream, we're walking on a long beach in the moonlight. I'm singing you a song as you run about looking for pieces of ocean glass. You have a few more than my own 28 years, but your healthful energy makes you seem younger. You have sand in your hair and I remark on it mischievously. You laugh and kick sand at me. I chase you and catch you because you want me to. I touch your cheek, you kiss my hand. And then I wake up. Where are you?

This ad says little about the author other than his age; instead, it paints an appealing picture with romantic and playful images.

Make your ad stand out so that it will be noticed. Lots of people say they love taking long walks on the beach, they're well educated, they've successful, they look younger than they are, and they're in great shape. Saying only that in a personal ad isn't likely to inspire someone to contact you, and it certainly won't make you stand out from the crowd.

Add color, imagination, and pizzazz. Show your passions. Describe the feeling you get when you ski down a mountain or meditate. Instead of just listing your desirable traits, such as intelligence or a sense of humor, use them. In this ad, Elaine describes herself as a car:

Headline: Little Red Triumph Spitfire in Need of Maintenance!

Are you good with your hands? I hope so, because I'm a little Spitfire who needs a good mechanic. I'm a little slow starting in the morning, but once I get my motor running .... All right, I have a couple of rust spots, but I'm still maneuverable and a lot of fun. Applications for mechanic and driver eagerly awaited!

Profile: Ethnicity: Caucasian Body Type: Average (trim, nice headlights) Height: 5 ft., 2 in.

Elaine was bombarded with responses after placing this ad. One guy volunteered ``to put her up on a rack and check her out.''

Mark described himself and what he's looking for:

I'm an entrepreneur at heart but am currently employed. (I've made my first million, but not for me.) I like exploring mysterious small bookstores, viewing double features in intimate cinemas, experiencing music from every corner of the earth, taking culinary adventures with good friends (I cook!), going to museums, street fairs, and more. I am interested in history, science, science fiction, the future, and the mind. I preferred "Goedel, Escher, Bach" to "A Brief History of Time." I have a house, a cat, and a beard (I use conditioner on it to keep it silky [the beard, not the cat]). I'm looking for friends.

I hope to find an equal partner, a friend and lover, with whom to create a family of our own. Most of all, I want to enjoy life with a special someone. A walking tour of the city is great, but walking, holding hands, is even better. By the fireplace on a foggy night is OK, but cuddling with someone I care about is even better. I seek loyalty, fidelity, and a happy someone to cuddle in the evening and in the morning.

Florence thought the ad had ``wonderful quirky bits of humor.'' She particularly liked Mark's comment about his use of conditioner. Now Florence and Mark are husband and wife.

Be Specific
Include hard data (facts such as your age, height, body type, educational background, profession), and your interests, say why someone would want to be with you, and what you're looking for. Make your ad stand out. Be expressive.

Name recent movies and books you like. Mention your favorite music styles or musicians. If you enjoy going out to Thai restaurants or bicycling, say so. Your message not only conveys information about you, but also provides topics for people to talk about when they respond.

I remember the first personal ad I placed. It was in the Jewish Bulletin, a weekly San Francisco newspaper. I knew my mother read the ads in the Jewish Bulletin, because she looked for men for me. I didn't want her to know that I had placed an ad. So I included few details that would indicate that I wrote it.

Good looking and in great shape. Enjoy movies, socializing with friends, going out. Seeking a man who enjoys the same.

People who read this ad didn't know much about me. Few responded and those who did didn't interest me. The moral of this story: If you want to meet people who would be interested in you, include specific information about yourself. That's exactly what Fred did. Here's what he wrote:

[Stardate 970523.9: Saturday. I wake up to National Public Radio replacing the light jazz I heard falling asleep. Crawling over Heavy Metal on way to bathroom, my eyes meet my bearded face in the mirror. Time for Peet's coffee and a bagel. Mind roams to last week's sushi feast and Shawn Colvin concert--very fun time. Hmmm. Lyrics mingle as I begin marinating the food for the barbie, this time zinfindel, garlic, rosemary, and basil. Dog looks at me "rollerblade today?" as I gaze out on the patio--I should put a hot tub there. Wonder if I should rent the newest anime video tonight, or maybe Fargo. Ugh, work tomorrow on design and patents for next-generation cable modems. *sigh* startups.... Maybe I'll give up this vice president job. Good thing KFOG acoustic music tomorrow morning.]

I'm seeking open-minded woman for sharing witty friendship and companionship, balanced conversation, active communication, fun times (maybe a few wild times...), mutual appreciation and respect for each other's personal growth and interests. Comfortable with and without makeup. More about me: compassionate, honest, good listener, creative, Monty Python, classic movies (Grant Hepburn, Hitchcock), low fat, good and bad humor movies, SciFi, TV animation (Duckman, The Tick, SouthPark, The Simpsons), Arnold, art, theater, affectionate, deep oakey Chardonney otherwise "life is too short to drink white wine," single malt (with good cigar on rare occasions), computers, 3D games, past skydiver, pilot, reading, Internet, scuba, biking, skiing, dogs, clothing optional beaches, travel for work, healthy, good teeth, brown hair, 4runner, toys, massage, Pippin, Phantom, comedy, Gallagher, meditation, tools, not political, "42", anything twice.

Tell What You Want
In your ad, list those characteristics that are essential to you. This is particularly important for women because there are men who will answer practically any ad posted by a woman. If you get more responses to your ad than you can handle, consider also listing the characteristics that you consider desirable. Do you want to spend time sifting through responses that are of no interest to you? Here are a few examples taken from ads that state what they want:

* I'm seeking someone who goes for what he wants and who isn't intimidated by an outgoing, confident, intelligent woman who says what's on her mind.

* Looking for a serious long-term committed relationship, preferably involving tying the knot.

* Extra points for someone who loves cooking.

* Please don't respond if you're on Prozac and in therapy.

* I won't tolerate body piercings, tattoos, BD, SM, spectator sports, or restricted diets. It would be icing on the cake if you were Jewish, but not fanatic about it. You could meet me for weekday lunches near Alameda.

* I'd like to meet a woman with intellectual curiosity, which isn't to be confused with (but isn't incompatible with) an accumulation of degrees (my bedroom resembles an early version of the mythical warehouse for Amazon.com). A love of the outdoors is also important. I've met people whose idea of outdoor activity is reading the New York Times Book Review in an outdoor cafe--good clean fun, I agree, but what I had in mind was more like hiking in Nepal or the Alps (Yosemite would suffice).

Prioritize Items
My friend Brian's ad states that he likes hiking, bicycling, sailing, skiing, wind surfing, backpacking, horseback riding, ballroom dancing, rock climbing, swimming, basketball, volleyball, racquetball, and tennis. How does he have time for all these activities? And does he do anything other than sports? Don't make a laundry list of every thing you've ever done! Choose a few of your favorites, and communicate your passion about them.

Sometimes Less is More
Some services offer ads that are up to 500 or 2000 characters long; other services allow you to place an ad of any length. You don't have to resort to the curt and cryptic abbreviations typically used in newspaper personals. Although there may be no restriction on the length, there's no need to disclose everything about yourself. A long list of requirements can make you seem overly picky and might scare away someone you'd like.

Use your ad to entice, just as companies do. Note that in their ads for a laser printer, Hewlett-Packard doesn't list the complete hardware specifications. Instead, they give you hints about what the device can do, show you samples of what it can produce, and get customers to share reasons why they are satisfied.

Share your best points: say, what you like about yourself and what your friends like about you. Say enough that people get a feeling for your personality and wit, and learn a few of your interests. Someone who wants to find out more can write to you.

What About Your Shortcomings?
In selling yourself, feel free to list your quirks and dislikes, if you feel they are an important part of you. But, as in a job interview, use caution when saying negative things about yourself. If you reveal your negative points, you probably will receive fewer responses, but those that you get will be interested in you for the way you are.

Dean Esmay began using the Usenet (a distributed bulletin board system) in 1995, where he eventually met the woman he married. Along the way, he learned from his many experiences. To share them, he wrote The Straight FAQ: One Straight Male's Thoughts and Advice on Successful Use of Internet Personals.The complete article can be found at http://www.syndicomm.com/straight-faq.html on the Web. It's a lighthearted, ``one guy to another'' article, mixing humor with blunt, straight-to-the-point advice that emphasizes the importance of being honest and being yourself. Here are his recommendations of what to include in your ad:

If you are obese, male or female, just say so in your ad. Don't be afraid of this. You're preparing yourself and whomever you meet for a letdown if you're not blunt on this subject. If you're fat, just say, ``Hey, I'm queen sized'' or ``I'm John Goodman sized'' or ``I'm a Rubenesque woman'' or something like that. Or just say ``I'm fat.'' The point is, be honest!
We live in a culture that values thinness, but there are a lot, and I mean a whole lot, of people out there who genuinely don't care about weight. There are even a good number of people out there who like fatness and find it attractive.
Don't be timid about it. If you're overweight, be forthright and don't weasel around the subject, unless you look forward to the prospect of being embarrassed, disappointed, and hurt. Lots and lots of people will love you if you're fat, and you're not giving them a chance if you don't tell them you're fat right up front.
Don't say anything that a face to face encounter will make you out to be a liar.

Consider starting your ad by describing your positives so as to mitigate any perceived negatives. In the following ad, Andy conveys that he is in decent shape and has a sense of humor, but doesn't cook and is into computers:

Although I'm in decent shape, it's more from a high metabolism than regular exercise or a healthy diet. (One of my bachelor jokes: "All my standard recipes start the same way: `Pull tab, lift corner to vent.'" [Yeah, I wrote that.]) I did do the gym thing while in art school though. Sometimes my honest and geeky nature shows itself in clumsy, nonromantic ways.

My friend Sally, who is forty-two years old, didn't think that many men would be interested in her. I suspected some men using online matchmaking services just might want to meet someone in her position, so I wrote this ad for her:

Handle: SomethingExtra
Headline: Want a child?
I want to be up front about this, so that you won't be surprised when you first see me. I'm pregnant. I've always wanted a child so I took the necessary steps to have one. Besides children, I enjoy west coast swing and cooking. I work in the health care industry. If you want to know more, please write.

Sally and I were pleasantly surprised that a dozen men responded, some who were interested in Sally and others who just wanted to share their experiences of being a single parent.

Let people know up front who you are. If you're out of shape, you're pregnant, or you smoke, say so. You are more apt to find someone who doesn't mind---or appreciates---those characteristics. Also it's better to find out sooner than later whether such things bother someone. Sometimes, it's better to lower people's expectations, so that they will be pleasantly surprised when they meet you.

Include a Photograph
If you want more people to look at your ad, include a picture. Don't include just any picture. Pick one in which you're smiling, happy, and relaxed. More people look at ads that have photographs. Even people who are not good-looking do better when they include a picture. It changes ``I have no idea what to expect'' to ``I can live with that.'' Photographs reduce uncertainty.

Although you may have looked better five or ten years ago, use a recent photograph. If you use an old photograph or touch up a new one, you may disappoint people when they meet you.

Here are several reasons for not including a photograph:
* You don't want people you know to realize that you're using an online matchmaking service.
* You are already receiving more than enough responses.
* You want to be judged on your personality rather than your looks. Both attractive and average looking people feel this way.
* You don't want strangers to recognize you.
* You think you're homely.

Mark has a friend who considers herself unattractive. She finds it painful being rejected when people meet her face to face. So she includes her photograph so that men who are put off by her looks can reject her without her knowing about it.

Nathan, who included a photograph of himself riding a horse, had a completely different experience.

Since I'm a scientist, I experimented with the profiles trying to learn what works. To my surprise the only thing that improves my rate of response is including my photo.

Running Multiple Ads Meeting many prospects increases your chances of finding someone who's right for you. Experiment with different approaches; place different ads on several services to increase the chances of your getting responses from a variety of people.

Another tactic for increasing responses is to place more than one ad on your favorite service. Few services block you from signing up for multiple accounts. They are interested in getting as many people as possible on their service, especially if you're paying for each account. However, services that allow you to send email from your own computer account or through your Internet Service Provider require you to have a distinct email address for each of your accounts. Consider if I listed my address as capulet@dnai.com for an account with handle Active and for a second account with handle BigBrownEyes. If I were to send an email message from capulet@dnai.com, the service would not know whether I intended that it be from Active or BigBrownEyes. Consequently, online matchmaking services that allow you to send email from your own computer require that you provide them with an email address that is distinct from all others on their system. America Online (AOL) allows you to create different user names for your account. If you only have one computer account and you want to sign up for more than one account on a matchmaking service, then consider signing up with a free email service such as Hotmail, Rocketmail, or Juno.

Experiment. Show different parts of your personality or emphasize your various interests. I signed up for a matchmaking service and placed an ad. Immediately, I received about a dozen responses. After it was posted on the service for a couple of months, my ad grew stale; the few responses that I did receive were from men who didn't sound interesting. Rather than continuing to wait around for men to write to me, I decided to send email to several men. I looked for men who seemed gregarious, active, intelligent, kind, and witty, and who lived within an hour's drive. I selected five and sent them email letting them know that what they wrote caught my eye.

I needed something to distract me from checking for replies every half hour. Writing a new profile for myself would do the job. If I kept the same handle but changed my description, men who remembered my original handle would not bother to check it out, since they had seen what I had written before. So I decided to create a brand new entry with a different handle. I wanted to be treated like a new woman on the service. I wanted to show a different side of my personality---a part more lighthearted and fun.

What should I say? To get ideas, I checked out other profiles. At first I looked at profiles of women who lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. I came across one ad that mentioned the computer-oriented comic strip character Dilbert, and Fry's, a store that sells computers and electronic hardware. I suspected that the author received many responses, because many of my male friends enjoy shopping at Fry's and find Dilbert amusing.

I scanned profiles of women in other parts of the country. I started my search in New York City. Why New York? I like cities. I hoped to find other women who like living in a city. New York City is sure to have high-powered, witty, and competitive women, who are assertive, outspoken, independent---and perhaps work in advertising and write alluring ads. In my search, I came across an ad that caught my eye.

Headline: SMART, SEXY, SWEET, AND RELATIVELY SANE
Are you saying to yourself, "What the heck (ooh, haven't said `heck' since...well, since ever) am I doing reading the personals?" So am I. I can't for the life of me figure out why my Knight In Shining Armor hasn't ridden in on his horse and carried me off into the sunset. All I can think is that maybe Fate's been saving me for a guy who prefers some other form of transportation. Like maybe the subway?

Although this ad didn't say much about the woman's interests, it showed that she is self-confident, down to earth, and romantic, and has a sense of humor. I thought her ad was great.

After considering several ads, I decided to use the knight-in-shining armor ad as a basis for my ad. It had personality and the author had fun with the text. It was the best one that I ran across. I revised the ad to fit me.

Headline: SMART, SEXY, SWEET, AND RELATIVELY SANE
Are you saying to yourself, "What am I doing reading the personals?" So am I. I can't for the life of me figure out why my knight in shining armor hasn't yet ridden in on his horse and carried me off into the sunset. Perhaps fate's been saving me for a guy who prefers some other form of transportation and more comfortable attire, and who would rather live in a city than in a castle or a place in the country. I know this sounds terribly immodest of me (and this whole anonymous thing is making me frightfully bold), but I'm a technical professional who's smart and well-educated (I have degrees from Berkeley and Stanford), cute, healthy, and sexy (beyond being disease free, I practice a healthy lifestyle: No smoking, no illegal drugs, little red meat, and regular exercise). I'm also passionate, well-traveled, published, independent, single, and relatively sane. So what's the problem? My mother thinks I'm too picky. Well, I don't want to settle for anything but a mind-blowing, intense, monogamous, intimate relationship. If you're someone who likes himself, isn't married, doesn't have a thing for his ex, and doesn't have a balance on his credit cards, drop me a line. I may just be your damsel who's done with distress.

Wanting a handle that showed I was a bit out of the ordinary, I selected Fervent. According to the Webster Digital dictionary, it means ``very hot: glowing'' or ``exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling.'' Both those definitions sounded good to me.

Although I'm five feet, four and a half inches, I listed my height as five feet, four inches so those who had seen my original ad, where I listed myself at being five feet, five inches, wouldn't suspect that I had written both.

The response was amazing. Within hours I had received a half dozen responses; within a few days I had received over fifty; within a fortnight, I had received 100. At least a dozen of the replies were from men whose profiles I found appealing.

I was pleasantly surprised that two of the five men to whom I had written earlier that morning responded to my new profile! Both men appeared more interested in Fervent's profile than in my original one, whose handle was Izzi. What was I going to do? Should I have Fervent and Izzi write to them separately? If I told them that both were created by me, would that dilute their enthusiasm for Fervent? How would I feel if I were writing to two men and then found out that they were the same person? To avoid an awkward situation, I wrote those two men and informed them that I had two profiles. They both seemed pleased with my honesty and interested in meeting me in person, but one of them asked why Izzi was an inch taller. I explained that Fervent preferred wearing shoes with low heels.

How to Write Your Ad Write a paragraph in which you show that you're creative, clever, thoughtful, or whatever you are. Describe the person whom you are seeking, as well as what you don't want. Get a draft written on your computer. Don't worry about it not being quite right.

If you're having difficulty figuring out what to say, you're in good company. Most people feel uncomfortable with self-promotion. But remember, people who write ads are people who don't want to stay single and who are willing to do something to change their situation. Are you such a person?

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!
Re-evaluate. Could your ad be putting off people by stating too many requirements? Do you come across as too nondescript? Are you describing yourself accurately? Does your ad make you sound desperate, overly serious, superficial, undesirable, or unappealing?

Do you want to appear sloppy or poorly educated? If not, before placing your ad online, check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Read it out loud.

Now put it online. Browse it to see what it will look like to other members. If it doesn't look right, fix it.

See what response you get. Tweak your ad every now and then. Experiment to see what works and what doesn't. Are you attracting people who interest you? If so, great! It's working. What if you haven't received any bites? It could be that you're too impatient. It takes some people a few days or even a couple of weeks to respond. Most men receive zero to a half dozen responses to their ads. Consider yourself lucky if you're a man and you receive over a dozen quality responses.

No Good Responses? What if you've posted your ad for weeks and haven't received any good responses? Here are several things you can do:

Get feedback. --- Show your ad to friends, both men and women. Ask for feedback on how you can improve it.
* Don't rush to accept every criticism or piece of advice. Listen to criticism, but also listen to your heart. Even if you don't accept the advice that someone gives you, just hearing another perspective may give you new ideas for improving your ad.
* You may worry that the people you ask for advice will think you're weird for placing personal ads. But online services provide a perfectly valid way of meeting people. Consult friends who are open-minded and genuinely want to help you. Also, try asking people whom you meet online.

Try another service. ---Perhaps the service on which you've placed the ad doesn't get much traffic.

Be patient. --- As Dean Esmay says:
Remember the audience isn't static. There's a constant influx of new [people], and there's a constant outflow, too. So remember, you may not find anyone at first, but if you're patient and you keep at it, chances are good you'll eventually get nibbles.

Reach farther. ---The reason you're not getting any responses may have nothing to do with the contents of your ad. Although you can write to anyone in the world with an Internet connection, many people prefer to write to people who live nearby, so that they won't have to travel far to get together. If you live far from any major metropolitan areas, your responses may be limited. If you don't mind traveling, let people know in your ad that you're willing to travel to meet them.

Be responsive. --- Are you willing to answer all responses you receive? If so, consider mentioning that in your ad.

Initiate contact. ---Write to people you find interesting.

Too Many Responses?
You may get more responses than you can handle. In that case, it's likely that many of the responses are from people who don't interest you. Rewrite your ad, shifting emphasis, making it more specific. If you're getting responses from people who are too young or too old, stress your desired age range. Try adding entries from your desirable-list characteristics. Including more of your unusual quirks or interests can also reduce the chaff without losing the wheat.

However, if you are a woman, some men may write to you regardless of what you put in your profile. Just discard responses that seem inappropriate, telling the sender that you don't seem like a good match.

From Putting Your Heart Online, by Nancy Capulet. Copyright 1998 by Variable Symbols, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement with Nancy Capulet. $18.95. Available in local bookstores, or call 800-926-6511, or click here.


TIPS ON TAKING YOUR CYBER-ROMANCE INTO THE REAL WORLD!
Your online romance has been burning up the modem lines, and you've shared your life stories. You know each other's inner-most secrets, life-long dreams and pet peeves. You've traded pictures from grade school through college and even a picture of you in your high school band uniform with braces (which you wouldn't show to just anybody)! Now, you're ready to take your online romance offline and into the real world.

Even though you may feel you've come to know that "special someone" through online interaction, it's important to remember that the people you meet online are in fact strangers. Your torrid emails may be hot enough to melt your computer screen, but that doesn't mean you should throw caution to the wind. You can never be completely certain about someone's background or their intentions -- particularly if you've only met online.

Love@AOL, the premier romance destination in cyberspace and the number one original content site on America Online, recommends using common sense and following several important Do's and Don'ts just like you do when meeting people for the first time in a club, at the supermarket or on the street.

If possible, DO schedule the first meeting as a double date, or take a few friends along for a group outing.

DON'T allow your date to pick you up at your home or your office. Safeguard your home address and all of your personal information. Also, DON'T plan on staying overnight with your date, or allowing him or her to make your travel/hotel arrangements for you.

DO meet in a well-lighted public place where there is a lot of activity. Be sure to end your date in a public place as well.

DON'T plan a full day outing. Meet for coffee or a drink on the first date to give your offline relationship time to develop -- in much the same way your online romance did.

DO tell a close friend or family member about your date, provide contact information and travel plans, and be sure to check in with him or her upon your return.

Listen to your intuition. If you feel uncomfortable, DON'T feel obligated to finish your date or agree to go on another. Answer honestly if you are asked out again.

DO pay attention to details -- your date's actions, your surroundings and your feelings. If you feel at all uncomfortable, or notice any strange or unusual signs, excuse yourself politely and say good-bye.


ROMANCE ON LOVE@AOL: It's Fun, it Works, it's Free and it isn't Just For Cybergeeks.
It's time to throw away the notion that cyber-romance and finding love online is for cybergeeks who sit in front of their computers all night. Real everyday people are busy and have little free time these days. Finding love and romance online is becoming incredibly popular for a mainstream audience that is looking for fast, easy help in managing and finding relationships.

The interactive nature of AOL provides thousands of couples, who might never have met due to their geographic location or other challenges, the opportunity to meet and communicate in real time. Through online personals, email, instant messages, chat rooms and dynamic programming Love@AOL provides members the perfect environment to mingle, meet, communicate with and get to know people.

Communicating via AOL with email and Instant Messages is reminiscent of one of the oldest forms of romantic communication. . .THE LOVE LETTER! Correspondence through email allows people to really get to know one another without suffering through the ordeal and nerves of the "First Date." It also puts an end to those unbearably smoky and expensive nights at the local bar scene.

With more than 1.5 million visitors each month, well over 140,000 personals and the largest collection of photo personals anywhere in cyberspace, Love@AOL members are likely to find the love of their life or, at the very least, a great new online acquaintance. Instant interactive chat, message boards, inviting party games and live programming combined with expert advice and information on everything concerning love, romance, dating and relationships make Love@AOL a one stop romance resource.


THE AOL LIST: The Top Ways You Know You're Dating in The Virtual Age
1. You start to worry less about how you look and more about your grammar and spelling

2. You immediately remove ex-boyfriends and girlfriends from your Buddy List

3. You breakup up with your girlfriend / boyfriend by hitting the delete key

4. You got your first kiss in a Love@AOL chatroom

5. You store your love letters and photos on your hard drive, not in your hope chest

6. When the voice announcing "you've got mail" starts sounding more romantic than Frank Sinatra singing "Strangers in the Night."

7. When you talk about him to your friends, you call him by his screen name

8. You check your email more than your voice mail

9. You go cyber-shopping for flowers and presents for you loved one instead of going to the mall

10. You send Instant Messages instead of calling

11. Instead of putting your sweetie's picture in a frame on your desk, you make it into a screen saver.

12. When a "crash (computer)" breaks up the date, but you walk away unharmed.

13. When you use a phony screen name to catch your boyfriend cheating.

14. You brag about the size of your hard drive

15. Instead of taking ballroom dancing classes together -- you sign up forspeed typing

16. You don't got to therapy to improve your relationship you buy a faster modem