Joe Romance scratches his head. Online dating profile questions are the worst. I never know what to write, he muses. He decides to write just the basics: general hobbies and interests without many distinctive details. His “matches” will be able to tell he’s a good guy, right? Then, he can work on impressing them later, once he connects with someone he really likes.
He taps out the following: I have two dogs. We go jogging in the park every morning. If your a Dog Lover like me, maybe we’ll get along. One’s a Labrador, the others a Dalmatian. And, I like stargazing. I studied Astronomy in highschool and could of been an astonomer. If you want to know how to find Orion in the sky, well I can be your Star Hunter ha ha. Normally I like to go to the observatory alone, it’s kinda my Fortress of Solitude (Superman fan, don’t judge), but for the right person, I’ll make room on my stargazing blanket. I also like concerts and going to the movies.
Satisfied with his self-description, Joe Romance submits his bio, uploads a few photos, and waits for his dating luck to change. Over the next few weeks, his number of profile views goes up, but he only gets a few messages.
What went wrong?
If Joe had thought to use it, leading automated proofreading site Grammarly could have offered a few suggestions. The global service has helped over two billion native and non-native English writers with common grammatical errors, spelling mishaps, and lack of originality through its signature Grammarly Editor. Beyond the automated proofreader’s obvious utility for school assignments and business communication, the folks at Grammarly believed their service could boost its users’ romantic prospects, too, by helping people make good first impressions with their online dating profiles.
To confirm this, Grammarly partnered with online dating site eHarmony to test the success rate of actual member profiles. “Success” was defined as a match that developed into two-way communication. In other words, let’s say Joe Romance gets matched to Betsy Sweetheart. He writes her a message, and if Betsy likes what she sees and writes back—ding!—their mutual responsiveness would be considered a success.
Upon sign-up, all eHarmony users respond to two profile questions: “What are you passionate about?” and “Please describe two or three things that you most enjoy doing with your leisure time.” Users are then matched to potential love interests using eHarmony’s special predictive algorithms. For the study, the researchers at Grammarly and eHarmony used the existing profile-question responses of 10,000 male-female matches (for a total of 20,000 unique online daters—that means no repeats!). The researchers ran each user’s responses through Grammarly’s online proofreading tool to count the number of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. They also noted whether these profiles led to two-way communication between partners.
The results indicated that men, in particular, might want to watch their words more carefully:
- Compared to a man who made no spelling errors, a man with two spelling errors in his profile was 14% less likely to receive a response from women.
- Women were more motivated to write to a man if he was passionate about a leisure activity (as shown by his use of adjectives). This could be anything ranging from descriptions of quantity to expressions of opinion or emotion (e.g., exciting, frightening). Adjectives related to sensation also garnered more responses from women. (So perhaps Joe Romance should have described the thrill he gets as he’s bundled up against the brisk mountain air, standing so close to the vast, star-speckled heavens above that he feels like he can touch them?)
Interestingly, for men, how strongly women expressed their interests made no significant difference. The researchers also noticed that poor spelling by a woman did not seem to affect her chances of a successful match. In fact, women made nearly twice as many grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors per 100 words than men did in their profiles. Because online dating tends to favor women, who may receive many messages from potential suitors, it is possible women may not feel the need to create letter-perfect profiles. It may also be true that men judge women’s profiles less by their writing.
The lesson is clear—at least for men. Extra care and effort can set you apart from the Joe Romances of the world when it comes to online dating. For men who are already competing in a tough dating market, some additional polish and originality, courtesy of Grammarly’s Spelling and Plagiarism Checker, can mean the difference between an empty inbox and one brimming with enthusiastic future dates.
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Dr. Helen Lee Lin – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Helen’s past research has focused on potential problems in relationships, such as keeping secrets from a significant other. She is also interested in communication as well as the use and consumption of media in relationships, and is planning to work in applied contexts for her future projects.