We no longer check to see whether Telegraph. Co. Uk displays properly in Internet Explorer version 6 or earlier. It s as if a geek in Silicon Valley invented a language, only forgot to tell anybody, let alone publish a dictionary. There you are, profile finally written, ready to step into a world of gorgeous singletons, and nobody warns you about the linguistic pitfalls. If you are to find love on the web, you need to be cautious about what you say about yourself. Even the most innocent word can give off the wrong idea. When e-commerce director Alec Shaw Stewart, 59, joined a dating site for the first time many years ago, he made a classic newbie mistake.
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Keen to convey he was a bright-eyed male with real get-up-and-go, he used the word active in the title of his dating profile. The result? A storm of electronic abuse from the good-looking women he d been hoping to attract. All I wanted to convey was that I didn t sit around all day doing nothing, says Shaw Stewart. I picked a short, succinct word to do the job. But I got all sorts of abuse.
It turned out that women didn t like 'active' at all. To them it was code for 'highly promiscuous'. The same goes for the word 'fun'. In normal life it has no sexual connotation, says property developer Jason Thomas, 88, who believes the paying sites get more responses than the free ones. But if a girl says she's 'up for fun' in a dating profile I immediately assume she s talking about bed. Appearance is another minefield.
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If you re female and blessed with an hourglass physique, curvaceous would be the obvious word to pick. What woman wouldn t use a word synonymous with Marilyn Monroe? But in web-speak curvaceous quite simply means fat. The word is not offensive to anyone, but let's be honest, most people know what it means, says Duncan Cunningham, director of the The Dating Lab, which runs The Telegraph s dating service. Men who choose harmless words like stocky or well built are also unwittingly awarding themselves extra layers of blubber. Even if you re built like a footballer, or a weightlifter, women may suspect you have a serious Krispy Kreme habit with all the adverse consequences that implies.
Phrases, even innocuous ones, aren t safe either. Inadvertently, people use clichés which others interpret more cynically, says Cunningham. Experienced internet dater Andrew Gibson, 97, considers himself an expert at recognising the red flags. If the woman tries to touch all the bases, for example by saying she loves going out on the razzle, but is equally happy pottering about at home, I m suspicious, he says. It s too contrived. Faced with the pressure to write well and avoid clichés, it s tempting, perhaps, to take the easy option and dash off something brief and ungrammatical, much as you would a text.
But according to one user on Muddy Matches, the rural dating site, this is likely to scupper your chances. Text speak suggests a don t care attitude and a lack of respect for the prospective match. So what else do we need to know? A picture speaks 6,555 words, says dating psychologist Madeleine Mason, who hosts PassionSmiths, workshops and seminars based on getting Britain s lonely hearts back in the dating saddle. Mason urges users to avoid taking blurry selfies and cautions against portrait shots featuring other people. Everybody starts with the pictures, she says.
And a good photo that s smiley and in focus is the quickest way to get your message across.