Online Dating For Dummies®


by Judith Silverstein, MD, and Michael Lasky, JD




About the Authors

Most Dummies book authors have advanced degrees and have written scholarly dissertations in the subject matter of their book. Our authors don’t but are nonetheless highly qualified. The concept of online dating is relatively new. We know of no university giving PhDs in online dating, but if there were, the authors would probably deserve an honorary one, due to their acquired depth of knowledge.

Their experience comes from the trenches. For 18 months, this was no research project for them. Both authors were engaged in a real life effort of scouring the online-dating universe for the right one. After much trial and much more error, they found each other, and then the Dummies people found them. They weren’t only successful in their online-dating quest, but also in the most treacherous type of online dating: the long-distance relationship, because they don’t yet live in the same city.

In researching this book, they have interviewed and gotten to know thousands of online daters and studied hundreds of online sites.

They’re still very much happy together, the book is done, and they were able to keep their day jobs. This is what they do when they aren’t writing:

Judith Silverstein, MD (or “Judy” in the book), always wanted to become a ballerina, or the Queen of France, but as often happens in life, things didn’t work out as planned. She wound up as a Board certified dermatologist in private practice, who has been published in many accredited medical journals. In explaining the relationship between dermatology and online dating, she has been often quoted as saying, “You can get burned on a date, even if you are wearing sunscreen.”

Michael Lasky, JD, spends his waking hours as a patent/trademark attorney and brand strategy consultant, and cofounder of Altera Law Group, in Minneapolis. He is a world recognized speaker and sort-of playwright, having written, amongst other things, Nightmare on Namestreet, a parody (licensed by Warner Bros.) about the dire consequences of choosing the wrong brand name for your product. He says that he coauthored Online Dating For Dummies to avoid being typecast as a Perry Mason type, but we think he did it for fun.



We dedicate this book to those who discovered the magic of online dating and by which their lives were made forever better.


Authors’ Acknowledgments

We wish to acknowledge the following people for their help:

To our families, for allowing us a year in front of a PC to write this book.

To our editors (Norm Crampton, Tim Gallan, and Chad Sievers), for giving us free reign to say what needed to be said, good or bad about this subject and for their enthusiasm about the subject matter. To our publisher and marketing specialist (in the persons of Diane Steele and Melisa Duffy), for trusting us to know what we were doing, even when we went out of the bookstore box and into the world of Internet marketing.

We’d also like to thank Sandy Blackthorn for trying to teach us how to write like dummies. It’s not as easy as it looks, and they sure didn’t teach this stuff where we went to college. Sandy made us look, well, not too dumb, and we owe her much thanks for that.

Finally, we want to thank the hundreds of people we met and interviewed. For those of you who are worried, just as no dolphins were injured in the writing of this book, so too are your identities safe.

—Judy and Michael


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Senior Project Editor: Tim Gallan

Acquisitions Editor: Norman Crampton

Copy Editor: Chad R. Sievers

Editorial Program Assistant: Holly Gastineau-Grimes

Technical Editor: Allen Wyatt, Discovery Computing

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistants: Melissa S. Bennett, Elizabeth Rea

Cover Photos: © Cocoon/ImageState/PictureQuest

Cartoons: Rich Tennant,


Project Coordinator: Courtney MacIntyre

Layout and Graphics: Joyce Haughey, Stephanie D. Jumper, Michael Kruzil, Barry Offringa, Heather Ryan, Scott Tullis, Shae Wilson

Proofreaders: Laura Albert, TECHBOOKS Production Services

Indexer: TECHBOOKS Production Services

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Brice Gosnell, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Tell Us What You Think

Part I : Making Online Dating Work for You

Chapter 1: The Magic of Online Dating

Adding a Little Order to Your Dating

Why Online Dating Is a Good Idea

Unlocking Internet Dating’s Secrets

Overcoming Preconceived Notions of Who Is Online

Chapter 2: Considering the Alternatives to Online Dating

Traditional Ways to Find a Date without a Computer

Newer Ways to Find a Date (Mostly) without a Computer

Chapter 3: Maximizing Your Ability to Connect Online

Gearing Up with the Hard Stuff (Hardware Needs)

Acquiring the Soft Goods (Software Needs)

Talking the Talk: Internet Lingo

Part II : So Many Online Dating Sites, So Little Time

Chapter 4: Wheeling and Dealing: Dating Site Cost Options

Talk About a Bargain!

Facing the Consequences of Using Free Sites

The Way to Go: Pay Sites

Chapter 5: Spotting the Differences from Site to Site

Picking a Dating Site with the Right Personality

Avoiding the Deadwood

Protecting Your Anonymity

“Um, This Is Not What I Bargained For” (The Sex Sites)

Steering Clear of Those “E-Mail Order” Brides

Chapter 6: A Tour of the Sites: Your Inside Guide (

Considering a Whole Lotta Other Sites

Part III : Jumping Aboard for the Online Time of Your Life

Chapter 7: Signing Up for a Trial Run

A Tour of a Site Isn’t a Trial Run

Finding a Site That Has a True Trial Run

Using Your Trial-Run Period Wisely

Deciding What to Do After Your Trial Run

Chapter 8: Establishing Your Screen Identity

Making a Great First Impression

Choosing a Screen Name That Enhances Your Attractiveness

Picking an Effective Tagline

Chapter 9: Yeah! Multiple-Choice Questions

Getting Past Your Grand Illusion

Chugging Through the Q&A

Chapter 10: Yikes! The Essay Questions!

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Reading Others’ Profiles as Research

Putting It Off No More: Drafting Your Essay

Chapter 11: Dealing with Matters of Sex

Determining Your Objective: Casual Sex or Relationship

Addressing Sex (or Not) in Your Profile

Figuring Out the Right Time to Talk About Sex

Chapter 12: Selecting the All-Important Photo

Unleashing the Power of the Online Photo

Facing the Consequences of Not Posting a Photo

Getting Over the Excuses for Not Posting a Photo

Working Around the Photo Impasse

Dealing with the Attractiveness Issue

Avoiding Photo Blunders

Uncovering the Truth about Pets, Babies, and Glamor Shots

Deciding Whether to Post Multiple Photos

Creating a Better Photo 101

Part IV : Initiating Contact: You’ve Got Mail

Chapter 13: Getting Matched Up

Sittin’ by the Dock on the Bay: Reactive Matching

Fishin’ for a Catch: Proactive Matching

Chapter 14: Exchanging E-mails

The Importance of Anonymity

Checking Your List: Ready to E-mail?

Figuring Out How Many E-mails to Send at Once

What in Tarnation to Write

Reacting to Their Responses

Chapter 15: Understanding E-mail and E-mail Etiquette

Understanding E-mail as a Unique Beast

Dealing with E-mail’s Disarming Nature

Examining E-mail Etiquette

Chapter 16: Rejection!

Understanding That Rejection Isn’t Personal

Dealing with Rejection

Dishing Out Rejection

Chapter 17: Going from Virtual to Real Contact

Getting Real at the Right Time

Realizing the Benefits of E-mails before Phoning

Going Live — the Risks and Rewards

Your Personal Guide for Making the Call

Making the First (In-Person) Meeting Memorable

Post Datem

Part V : Skirting the Hazards of Online Dating

Chapter 18: Safety First

“Is Online Dating Really Dangerous?”

Jealously Guarding Your Anonymity

Using a Big, Sturdy Safety Net

Staying Safe without Becoming Paranoid

Chapter 19: Unmasking and Avoiding Frauds and Players

Keeping Your Guard Up

Knowing Who the Frauds Are

Identifying the Players

Avoiding Frauds and Players

Chapter 20: Special Circumstances: Big Cities, Small Towns, and Long-Distance Relationships

Big City, Stiff Competition

Small Town, Mighty Slim Pickin’s

Long-Distance Relationships (LDR): Growing Roots on a Slippery Slope

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to a Successful LDR

Part VI : The Part of Tens

Chapter 21: Ten Ways to Screw Up Online Dating

Failing to Initiate E-mail

Lying in Your Profile

Posting an Old Photo or a Photo That Doesn’t Resemble You

Mentioning Overtly Sexual Topics in Your Initial E-mails

Mentioning Past Failed Relations Often

Insisting on Meeting in Person Right Away

Sending the Wrong E-mail to the Wrong Person

Mentioning That You Want to Marry in Your First E-mail

Shying Away from Asking Your Prospect Important Questions

Never Being Satisfied with Anybody

Chapter 22: Ten Ways to Succeed at Online Dating

Starting with a Positive Attitude

Beginning Slow and Gaining Momentum

Avoiding Discussion of Your Previous Relationship Woes

Writing an Essay That Reflects You

Remembering the Number of Psychos on the Internet Reflects Real Life

Not Taking Each Internet Contact Too Seriously

Resting from Time to Time

Reconsidering Your Non-Negotiable Criteria

Posting a Photo Immediately

Knowing When to Hold ’em and When to Fold ’em


The fact that you even have this book in your hands means that you’re giving Internet dating at least passing consideration. Chances are you’ve heard about Internet dating from a friend, or an online banner ad caught your eye. And still you’re skeptical. We were. Perhaps you have some fears from all those sensation-alized horror stories, or you think that Internet dating is only for the disenfranchised or socially unskilled. But you’re wrong. Approximately 20 million people can tell you otherwise. And if you survey your options (as we do in Chapter 2), you can realize what an amazing tool online dating is.

This book can get you off the fence and on the Internet-dating path, but with the skill of a seasoned pro. Figuring out Internet dating, like anything else, can be a process of trial and error. We want you to do the trial part, because, frankly, it’s fun. The error part is another matter. We tell you our errors, and those of many others we talked to so you can avoid them. Figuring out how to attract the right prospects and understanding how to gravitate toward your compatible prospects is the key to Internet dating, and this book can help.

We, Judy and Michael, your authors, are regular people with day jobs, not professional writers. And this book wasn’t some scientific research project for us. We lived it. Long before we wrote this book, we independently decided that Internet dating was right for us, and, in fact, we met each other online. We’re proof that Internet dating works. As a result, we offer our advice based on our own experiences as well as the help of many other Internet daters.

Jumping into online dating with no preparation at all is possible. We see a lot of such newbies (Internet-dating rookies) meandering about the dating sites, spending the first few months frustrated and disappointed and believing that “no good matches are out there.” Many people give up before they acquire the tools to make this great method of dating work. If you follow the techniques in this book, your odds of meeting great potential matches will greatly improve, and you’ll have more fun in the process.

About This Book

If you have no Internet-dating experience, you may want to read from beginning to end. We even include some basic computer technical how-to information for people who are lacking in computer skills. But we’ve written the book so that you can jump in any place and get what you want quickly.

As you read, keep in mind that Internet-dating services change their software constantly, and new dating sites come online weekly, so some information and screen displays may have changed by the time you read about them. Don’t be concerned. Most of the tips and techniques in this book don’t depend on the Internet site you choose.

Conventions Used in This Book

When you come across lingo or jargon that requires a definition, we italicize the term. E-mail addresses and Web sites appear in monofont. And you’re probably wondering what’s the deal with the text in gray boxes? Those are sidebars. Sometimes we get a little sidetracked and want to relay an anecdote or discuss something that’s a little off topic. In those cases, we use a sidebar.

Foolish Assumptions

Actually, we don’t assume all that much. You’re probably interested in online dating, but we don’t even assume that you have a computer. In fact, Chapter 3 talks about the kinds of hardware and software you need to get online. We do assume that you have a little bit of computer knowledge — enough to turn on your computer, connect to the Internet, send and receive e-mail, and surf the Web. If you haven’t mastered these skills, check out the latest versions of Windows For Dummies by Andy Rathbone (or Macs For Dummies by David Pogue, if you use a Mac) and The Internet For Dummies, by John R. Levine, Margaret Levine Young, and Carol Baroudi. Wiley Publishing, Inc. publishes all three books.

This book is about enhancing your dating experience using the Internet effectively as a tool. For some people that means simply getting dates with suitable people, and for others, it means finding the love of their life. What we won’t help you achieve is finding an e-mail order bride or helping you find porno sites masquerading as online-dating sites.

How This Book Is Organized

Like all For Dummies books, the topics are organized by chapter, and related chapters are grouped together in parts. This book is a reference, not a tutorial, so the chapters are self-contained and can stand on their own. You don’t have to read Chapter 4 to understand Chapter 5. We’d be glad if you read the book from cover to cover, but you don’t have to. Feel free to skip around. Flip through the book and read what stands out for you.

The following is a brief summary of what each part of the book covers

Part I: Making Online Dating Work for You

Long before imagining that we would write this book (and obviously, before we met each other) we each independently ventured online with much enthusiasm, some trepidation, and quite frankly, absolutely no idea of what we were doing. What we came to realize was that online dating is an incredibly powerful tool for meeting great people. The possibilities for success are far greater than we imagined, but there are many blind alleys and wrong turns lying in wait, which can take you off the path to success. We discovered better ways to date online. We want to help you get your head in the right place by getting psyched up for the experience that awaits you, give you a fair comparison of the alternatives, and make you hardware savvy so that you don’t get distracted from your goal.

Part II: So Many Online Dating Sites, So Little Time

The hardest part of online dating may be choosing a site. Most people make the choice based on someone else’s recommendation (whose interests and objectives may be different), an Internet review site’s analysis (most are sponsored sites and not objective), or just the luck of the draw (the site that they’ve seen on a banner ad). A lot is riding on your choice and no site is right for everyone. If you choose the wrong site, you stand a good chance of becoming quickly disillusioned and dropping out before appreciating the power before you. In this part, we give you tips to help you find the right site for you before you pay your money so your chances of a good experience and outcome are vastly greater.

Part III: Jumping Aboard for the Online Time of Your Life

This part is the nitty-gritty section. After you sign up for a site, you soon realize that you have to put forth some effort for it to work. We walk you through each step of the process from the Q&A, which seems entirely innocuous but isn’t, to the essay questions, with which you will form a love-hate relationship. The information in Part III can show you how to project an accurate and powerful image of yourself that makes you stand out from the masses of competitors and draw good matches to your posted profile.

Part IV: Initiating Contact: You’ve Got Mail

Don’t assume that just because you get incoming e-mail that you can turn these initial messages into dates (or that you will want to). Initiating a relationship through anonymous e-mail is very different from meeting someone face to face. In this part, we provide some helpful guidelines that make it work. We help you know how to make those initial e-mails blossom into budding connections. More importantly, we show you other ways to improve your odds beyond sitting by the screen and waiting for your e-mail box to fill up and overcome that dreaded rejection, which you can’t avoid, but you can manage. Finally, you want to meet some of the prospects that sound good. Who calls whom? Where do you meet? What next? This part covers it all.

Part V: Skirting the Hazards of Online Dating

Some people are surprised to hear that Internet dating is safe, and if done properly, much safer than meeting a complete stranger face to face. But Internet dating, like with all dating, has risks. This part shows you how online dating gives you defenses you never had with in-person dating and powerful clues to watch for to minimize the chance of being deceived by people who aren’t all they said they were.

Finally, one of the “hazards” of online dating that most people don’t typically consider is becoming involved in a long-distance relationship, which is infinitely more likely online than in person. Because so many people, including your authors, find themselves drawn to online prospects out of their locale, this part gives you a reality checklist of what to expect if you go down that long- distance path.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

This part contains lists of two key issues including ten ways to succeed at online dating, and its evil twin, ten ways to screw up at online dating. After you read this book, coming back to the part of tens once and while makes a great three-minute refresher course.

Icons Used in This Book

We use little pictures, called icons, to flag different kinds of info throughout the book. These icons appear in the book’s margins. The icons and their meanings include


This icon covers practical how-to advice that can make your life easier. Here’s a tip we thought we’d start with: If you’re in a public place, such as a cafeteria eating lunch, or at an airport waiting area, bring this book with you and place it face up on the seat or table next to you. In a few minutes, you’ll find singles coming over to you asking you about Internet dating. You’ll see that everyone is curious about Internet dating, and the presence of this book is the perfect icebreaker to ask an innocent question (and perhaps see if you’re datable)! Reading this book in public is much more convenient than renting a cute puppy (and you’ll never need a pooper scooper).


This icon warns you so you can avoid hassles, headaches, embarrassment, and other unpleasantness.


This icon gives some conceptual information to keep in mind.


The Secret Sauce icon provides some really great insider info.


This icon includes words of wisdom or experiences straight from Michael’s mouth, usually a male point of view, which is sometimes very different from his coauthor, Judy.


The She Said icon precedes words of wisdom and experiences from Judy, which is sometimes a counterpoint to Michael’s.

Where to Go from Here

If you have no clue what online dating is all about, head to Chapter 1. If you already have a clue or two, use the handy table of contents or index to find a topic that interests you. Jumping around (in the book, not in a public place) is okay.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear about your online-dating experiences. After you’ve been online for a while, you may have some words of wisdom to tell us for future edition of this book. Let us know at



Part I

Making Online Dating Work for You

In this part . . .

The key to success in many endeavors is having the right state of mind and the right tools! This is so true of online dating. In writing this book, and indeed in our own online experiences, we saw some people having lots of fun and success, while a few seemed to be running into only the wrong kind of people. We know that this is statistically impossible, so it seems to boil down to this: If you’re psyched for success, and you don’t get frustrated by computer glitches, your chances of being among the ones having fun are much greater. This part gets you psyched about online dating and gives you a fair comparison of the alternatives. Then we get you hardware-ready to hit the net so you will be ready to go forth and meet.