If, like many modern singles, the last date you had was in your breakfast cereal, you're probably tired of the so-called "singles scene"--bars, the gym, or "networking." Maybe you're ready to try meeting someone on the web.

Online, there's not as much pressure: no awkward introductions, no ridiculous pickup lines; by filling a simple personal profile, you go right to exchanging meaningful information. But it's not as simple as it seems--dating never is! Remember, your personal profile is a virtual first impression, so make it a good one. Here's how:

  • Casual Date or Long-term Love?
    Before you even sit down to type, ask yourself, are you looking for Mr./Ms. Right or Mr./Ms. Right Now? If you're keeping it casual, a potential pal's religion or social habits may not be a huge consideration. But if you're looking for something longer lasting, make sure to be up front about your beliefs and practices. If you won't even consider dating a social drinker, make that clear. If your religion requires that you be vegetarian, it's worth noting. Let your potential match know how practicing you are. Even if you're posting in the "Catholic Cuties" section, make sure to convey your level of devotion: Mass every morning or once a week on Saturdays.

  • Honesty is the Best Policy
    You think Honest Abe would have told Mary Todd that he was a buff blonde of average height? Exactly. Be honest and forthright about who you are, your likes, your dislikes and what you're looking for in a mate. Remember, self-confidence is sexy.

  • A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words
    Profiles with photos get more responses, so pull out the Polaroid and smile! A recent, relaxed pic will do just fine. Glamour shots need not apply. If you use a picture you've already got lying around, keep in mind: It's painfully obvious when you've tried to crop out the ex. Also, try not to use shots of you with a beer in each hand, or wearing a T-shirt that says "I'm with stupid" or anything very revealing. You're simply going to attract Mr. or Mrs. Wrong.

  • You Put a Spell Check on Me
    There is nothing more attractive than intelligence; show yours by using proper spelling and grammar. Spend a few extra minutes to write out your profile by hand before typing, then reread and refine your post--or have a friend help out.

  • Eliminate the Negative
    There's nothing more aggravating than a first date who goes on about his or her "psycho-ex." We've all had bad relationships, so why dwell on them? Keep things positive. And remember, self-deprecating humor ("I'll take anything with a pulse!") does not translate on the web--it just looks desperate.

  • Keep it Simple
    Leave out literary allusions and complex metaphors. The key is clarity: Don't get twisted up in details, or project an imaginary person you think people will be attracted to.

  • Multiple Choice or Essay?
    Nobody like essays tests. The hand cramps! The teeth-gnashing! Nonetheless, a good profile should be an interesting essay about yourself. Avoid "laundry lists" of your attributes. Sure, potential mates want to know if you ski, have a dog or work in a bank, but they're more interested in your personality! So let your writing reflect your genius and wit. Dust off that thesaurus and jazz up your bio to go from drab to fab!

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