In addition to displaying a screen name, many online-dating sites allow you to display a phrase, called a tagline. Some sites, such as Match.com, let you choose a long screen name and a long tagline. That option can be a bit overwhelming, though, so go with a relatively short name and focus your creative juices on the tagline. If you try to be too creative with both, they tend to conflict and create a confused message.
Do a search on your site to see which is more prominent — taglines or screen names. Focus on refining whichever one is more visible.
Figuring out what to write
Taglines are difficult to write. Good ones, though, are mighty powerful. People who work in advertising agencies can make their entire career on just one tagline. (Think "Where's the beef?")
As in advertising, the key to a good tagline in online dating is
- Sincerity (or, alternatively, humor)
In the world of marketing (which, in the end, is what online dating is all about), the goal is to reach the right customer, not every customer. This goal is called strategic positioning, the process of defining who you are in a way that your customers understand whether they're a good match for you. Likewise, in the world of online dating, your goal is to present yourself in a way that tends to attract the right kind of person, not every available prospect.
The obvious first step is to think about the kind of match you want. Focus on the less superficial stuff, not how tall or suave or sexy you want your prospect to be. Then you need to combine that thought with something about who you are. And from there, create your tagline.
If that advice doesn't work and you're still drawing a complete blank, you have three choices:
- Take the first few words from your essay and call it a tagline. Be careful that you're tagline doesn't put your prospect asleep.
- Some sites automatically use the first few words of your essay to generate your tagline. This feature can cause some serious embarrassment if you aren't careful (see the section "Checking how your tagline gets displayed" for the scoop). Don't be dull. For example, say that you started your essay like 50 percent of all postings: "I'm youthful, spirited, happy, healthy . . ." That's what your tagline will be. This tagline isn't horrible, and it won't injure anyone, but that tagline won't excite anyone either.
- Consider borrowing from someone else's clever opener. Don't fret here. Plagiarism is okay in online dating.
- Note that copying a tagline from someone else is only a good idea if the tagline is really good and it fits you.
- Switch to humor mode and have fun. After considerable research, good humor is always appreciated.
Using a tagline that pulls double duty
The first purpose of a tagline is to quickly say something about yourself that invites a person to look further. The second purpose is to create some point of further discussion — an icebreaker that provides a prospect with an easy topic to start a conversation.
For example, here's an a tagline that makes you want to read on:
Skydiving is the coolest experience on (or off) this planet. . . .
But what if you're not a skydiver and not even interested in being one? Then switch into humor gear. A funny line can be a great icebreaker, and you don't have to be particularly funny to write funny. Try these starter ideas:
- Use an interesting quote from your favorite writer, humorist, or wag. Google is teeming with quotes from Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, and Woody Allen, to name a few. The quote needn't be hilarious, just engaging. For example:
- "Way down deep, I'm very shallow." (Dorothy Parker)
- Tweak the opening line from your favorite poem or literary piece, giving it a funny twist. If someone is familiar with your reference, you can begin conversing about something you both already have in common. For example:
- "It was the best of dates, it was the worst of dates." (Apologies to Dickens!)
- Use a line from a funny commercial — even one from your childhood. Most people enjoy pop culture references.
- Quote your favorite bumper sticker or a friendly reminder from your utility bill. Don't be afraid to be inventive.
- Put the words funny taglines (or similar phrasing) into your favorite Internet search engine for suggestions. Here's a sampling of what you may find:
• "I'm boycotting shampoo!!! Demand True poo!"
• "Everything I need to know I got from watching Gilligan's Island."
• "I run with scissors."
• "Where are my sunglasses? Oh here they are."
• "In time, we all become that which we most hate. That explains how I became a plate of liver and onions."
• "I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not too sure."
Checking how your tagline gets displayed
Remember the game "Telephone" from when you were a kid? You whispered something to the person next to you, and at the end of the chain, you compared what you started with to what the last person heard. Well, guess what? You may notice a bit of Telephone in how your tagline gets posted. You need to check to make sure that the site didn't turn your tagline into a scarlet letter.
The sites that allow long taglines don't always display the entire line in search results. Sometimes only a limited number of letters gets posted on a search. (The entire tagline is visible when your prospect opens your photo and full profile.) Spark.com, for example, uses this system to create a tagline from your essay.
Table 1 gives some examples of good taglines gone bad (no, it's not the name of a new TV reality show) when various dating sites didn't display the entire tagline in search results.
Table 1: Good Taglines Gone Bad
What Was Intended
I'm easy to get along with.
Most people say that I'm big hearted.
Most people say that I'm big
I'm 52, but I'm a doggoned younger person than my age.
I'm 52, but I'm a dog
People say they love my self-confident attitude.
People say they love my self
Remember to stop and smell the roses.
Remember to stop and smell
With me, boredom is always a thing of the past.
With me, boredom is always a thing
Please help me get off this site by being my match.
Please help me get off
I'm real easy on the eyes.
I'm real easy
Come and see the finger lakes with me.
Come and see the finger
You really can't tell how the computer can chop your phrase. You just need to check — after you establish your profile. And like the story of the Emperor's new clothes, people may not tell you. They just won't write you, and that's the problem.