Common Fucking Courtesy: Grammar, Usage and Online Dating

grammar online datingOnline dating. Yup – we’ve been here before. If you missed my post on my professional blog (Online Dating: A New Way to Think About Branding, SEO and SEM), have a gander at that once you’re done with my weekly diatribe.

Having utilized various online dating sites over the years (and with statistically wondrous results – no shit), there’s one thing for which I’m a complete sucker: a well-written profile. A man who can write an intelligible profile and introductory email is, by far, enough to make me drop hundreds at Agent Provocateur in anticipation of meeting this rare, elusive and delicious beast.

That’s right: RARE.

In a sense, I owe this blog to a man I recently met on Match.com. Our initial phone conversation went the way of profiles and our mutual agreement of how difficult it is to find one that:

  1. Reads as if it’s written by an adult with some functional grasp of the English language;
  2. Isn’t laden with a litany of usage errors, punctuation nightmares or smiley-fucking-face emoticons;
  3. Gives you a hint as to the personality of the computer operator writing said profile and isn’t merely some generic iteration of Joe or Jane Anybody.

Said gentleman inspiring this blog shall remain nameless at this juncture. However, our conversation on the subject ended with his statement that, “Good grammar – it’s just common courtesy, isn’t it?”

Why, yes…yes, it is.

That said, school is now in session. Whatever the hell it is you might have forgotten since you last took English composition, we’re going to run over it now so you can stand a chance of getting a date. Well, a date with someone who doesn’t live in a home that they (proudly) “just took the wheels off of.”

The Redhead’s Rules of Online Dating Communications: Profiles, Emails, and (for fuck sake) WINKING/POKING and other Offensive Practices

  • Spell Check – It’s What’s for Breakfast. For the love of all that is holy, cut and paste. While MS Word can occasionally offer useless advice, it’s generally pretty spot-on about the whole spelling thing. Just follow the little red squiggly lines! When writing your online profile or an introductory email, drop it into MS Word (or some other product that’s not a spawn of the satan that is Microsoft) and click on that little icon that checks the spelling. Members of the opposite sex will THANK YOU. It blows my mind as to why online dating sites (not a freakin’ ONE of them) never have a spell check in their messaging or profile building applications. Maybe they believe in Darwinism. But I say see the beginning of this blog. I’m offering to go lingerie shopping for men who can SPELL. Seriously – make me spend.
  • Capitalization – Use It. Your online profile and initial emails with a prospective mate are nowhere to be sloppy. The first word of a sentence is Capitalized (like that…see?). There are no exceptions here and unless you’re a published author with a New York Times best-selling novel and you want to go toe-to-toe with me on this, sit the fuck down and hit the shift key. Oh, and profiles and emails are also NOT the place to use text messaging lingo. It’s mind boggling how many emails I’ve chucked from would-be suitors (urp) who have written me emails saying something to the effect of, “UR gr8. Wuld u like 2 chat?” (uh, no.) Use whole words. Real words. Fo schizzle.
  • Usage – It’s Not a Crime. I can forgive a simple slip up between “its” and “it’s.” Once. But when a profile is riddled with poor spelling and horrific usage, I throw up just a little bit and wonder what I (a professional writer) am doing looking for love in a place where it all begins with images and the written word. I’m likely a masochist. However – let’s have a simple usage lesson that can serve as a gentle (shin kicking) reminder for use even beyond the glorious realms of online dating:
    • It’s vs Its – One’s a contraction…one’s a possessive pronoun. No, that doesn’t mean a noun “in favor” of something. Check it out:
      • It’s (it is) likely that The Redhead is a masochist.
      • The Redhead has lost its (possessive) fire.
    • Your vs You’re – Again, it’s hell on earth to determine the difference between these two words that sound so much alike, but it’s contraction-versus-possessive pronoun time again:
      • Pardon me, but your (possessive) car is on fire. Is that your ex-wife I see running away?
      • You’re (you are) going to be my next ex-husband. I can feel it.
    • There vs TheirHoly crapola. This one’s a doozy. Well, not really. One indicates a location and one is a (shocker) possessive pronoun:
      • After realizing her reaction to his collection of belly lint, he picked up his coffee and decided to end the line of conversation there (location).
      • On their (possessive) first date, it was clear by the second drink that they were going to bone.
    • Too vs ToI’m all for letter conservation, but sometimes ya just gotta buy a vowel, Vanna. One indicates direction and one “additional.”
      • Aw, honey…I think the chicken fingers at Applebees are great, too (as well/additionally).
      • I gave the house to (loss of mine/gain of his) my ex-husband in the divorce.
      • Actually, “to” has a plethora of uses. Check ’em all out here, Walt Whitman.
    • Moot vs Mute – OK, this one’s just really a pet peeve.
      • Moot – means “doubtful,” as in a “moot point.”
      • Mute – means silent, incapable of speech…or DUMB. Anyone who confuses these two is just…dumb.
    • If you confuse any of the above, please go to the bookstore and purchase a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
  • Winking and Poking – Just Fucking Quit It Already. You…yeah, you with the finger stickin’ out. Don’t even THINK about poking me on Facebook or Winking at me on Match.com. Here’s the rub: write me a goddamn email. If you wink, I’ll think you have something in your eye and hand you a bottle of Visine. I would personally rather have my ass slapped by a random stranger on a street corner than have a “wink” or “poke” thrown my way online. Why? Because I’m a woman. I want you to be a man, not some pansified oh-my-god-will-she-write-me-back-shudder-in-the-corner-after-I-dip-her-pigtails-in-the-inkwell girlie boy. Ladies, I think that in general, men like a woman who’s not afraid to make the first move. Why? Because from what I’ve heard from my dates as well as male friends who partake in the petri dish of online romance, IT’S RARE. Make the first move. Read my profile. Say something witty, strike up a conversation. After all, we may actually meet one day and if we can’t talk…boy, are we fucked. (and not in the “I bagged the hot guy/gal on the first date” way)
  • Extra Credit Assignment – Use the Buddy System. Before you go releasing that profile out into the wild, you virile guys/gals, grab a pal and get some weigh-in. Do you sound like an ass? Is your profile a psycho magnet? Are you coming across as a “listmaker” who won’t reveal your income but wants to date a man who makes at least $150k a year?

Now, in all honesty, I’ve made errors with both grammar and usage. I make them daily, but hopefully my audience never sees them. The point of this blog is that proper grammar and usage really are common fucking courtesy. They’re like opening the door for a woman, being on time to a scheduled appointment, sending your mom a card on Mother’s Day or bringing your buddy a six pack to his backyard barbeque. When you take the time to spell check, use real words, capitalize, write complete sentences and treat online conversations more like real world conversations, your online dating experiences will improve drastically. Don’t hide behind the online shield or think that, “Oh, it’s just an online dating profile. This stuff will never work.” Whether you’re on a free site or a paid portal, take the time to show the men or women out there that you’re concerned about your appearance…in writing. After all, you never get a second chance to fuck-up a first profile view.

38 replies
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    Erika-
    You have quite the knack for bringing to light that which tries to hide in the darkness (insert reference to needing an old priest and a young priest here…). Of the almost 1000 profiles (that’s right, 1000) I have removed from my Match searches, the large majority are because the grammar and “text-ese” are a complete turnoff. I get to spend all day at work correcting the grammar of America’s troubled youth-I do not want more of the same at home! A profile is a reflection of you as a human being-and I am beginning to question whether many of the women (not all) want to be seen as intelligent in any way, shape or form… That said, it does help you to appreciate the profiles (and people) that do take the time to care.

    Reply
  2. Alison
    Alison says:

    And once again, you speak the whole truth and nothing but. Good job! Thanks for the heads up on the lingerie…..think I must go shop now. HAHA!!

    Reply
  3. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Great article! By the way, under the Extra Credit Assignment point, there may be a spelling error. Perhaps it was a test. When copied and pasted into Word, the word “verile” gave me squiggly red lines. Maybe run it by a buddy… 😉

    Oops — damn, I blew it with the wink.

    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Can’t prove a thing!!! (Thank God for “comments held for moderation!” Hah!) Thanks for the catch! As I said, I’m not immune to the occasional error…and..did you just WINK at me?!?! 😉

      Reply
  4. SINgleGIRL
    SINgleGIRL says:

    Excellent and well said. I might just start sending this link out as an auto reply on my online dating accounts with the message – “Please make sure you meet the following standards”.

    Reply
  5. David Benjamin
    David Benjamin says:

    I read lots of blogs…this one is one of my favorites. As a recruiting manager, I read a ton of resumes and emails that could make a top 10 “Dumbest things to write on a…” list. See, I probably just put the ” in the wrong spot. I’m so bad 🙁 LOL JK

    Sorry, had to do it.

    Reply
  6. Wendie Wilson
    Wendie Wilson says:

    I’m an emoticon junkie. I do the really BAD ones like, “I’m sorry your grandma died. :'(” or “I guess he just wasn’t attracted to you. :-/” Or, “Whoops! I found dad in the closet again! 8-O!” I guess I’ll have to work on giving those up. Wa waaaaaaaaa!!!! 🙁

    Reply
  7. darkheath
    darkheath says:

    Hey Erika,

    Will you keep this to yourself? It’s the only advantage some of us blokes have… banana*!

    * whilst commenting on a blogpost concerning grammar, I didn’t want to end a sentence with a preposition.

    ‘Til next we meet, yon Fiery Redheaded Maiden, I bid thee… adieu.

    david

    Reply
  8. darkheath
    darkheath says:

    Oh.. and you forgot the other “there” tragedy, “they’re”. As in both of them are.

    But, for what it’s worth, I DO like the smilies to some extent. Getting emotions across in letter writing isn’t always easy. I’ve seen my share of misunderstandings happen because someone took something written the wrong way. So I’ll give the thumbsup to emoticons, but they need to be used with intelligent writing.

    Reply
  9. Derec
    Derec says:

    Well said, there’s nothing like a well written profile. I was drawn into a long, torrid relationship with a fireball I met on Match.com based on well written profiles.

    She was a strict grammarian and her ability to use “who” and “whom” not to mention the proper use of “she” and “her, “I” and “me” was a huge turn on. Maybe it was the attention to detail and personal pride, who knows but it was sexy.

    In the end, I learned it’s not all about spelling and grammar but it was a good start.

    Reply
  10. Dayna
    Dayna says:

    I guess I got lucky on Match.com. I met someone who taught college English. Five and half years later, I still have not been witness to her using text-ese or poor grammar/usage at any point, even on “Post-Its.” Her profile name was witty and the profile itself somewhat mysterious, with no pictures of her bent over a motorcycle in a bikini. (I’m not sure why I got so many women who sent me those. You’ve “seen” me…WTF? I don’t THINK I look like the type who wants that…)

    Regarding the winking/poking, watch out for people trying to slap your ass on the street!

    Reply
  11. Fascinated
    Fascinated says:

    LOOKING THROUGH A GLASS ONION

    Having putatively inspired The Redhead’s latest rant about online dating, I’ve given a good deal of thought to the subject and have an overarching point I’d like to add. While looking through the bent back tulips to see how the other half lives, I think it’s important to keep in mind that we are in danger of substituting interactive media for interaction.

    An online dating profile (or any other online blather) is not you! It’s a persona. A straw man. A caricature. It’s the Walrus, not Paul. I feel obligated to emphasize this because this modern world seems to be blurring the line between “reality” (you know, like the shows) and “illusion” (you know like the freaky magician guy with the buck teeth who actually exists).

    How does this apply to online dating? Having gone a couple of rounds on Match and seeing the same profiles over periods of years, I began to postulate the notion that perhaps some of these individuals were more comfortable online than off. A few face-to-face encounters seemed to bolster my egomaniacal presumptions. I met a few Lady Madonnas who clearly hadn’t plotted their exit strategy from the Strawberry Fields of the internets. I’m sure there are Fools on the Hill who suffer from the same lack of clarity. It’s all fun and games until you have to look someone in the eye, no?

    Have we become so inured to the medium as to miss that while online we’re looking through a glass onion?

    Reply
  12. Joe
    Joe says:

    A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
    by Mark Twain

    For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x” — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

    —————–

    Spelling is hard.

    Reply
  13. Sebastyne
    Sebastyne says:

    I agree that profiles are the KEY to successful online dating. Even if you write the best personal email to someone, if you have a crappy profile your game is over. Not everyone can do it, as some people simply aren’t literate enough to pull of a dating profile, and that doesn’t make them undatable in the real life. They’re just better off hanging out at night clubs. Anyway… My pet peeve on a profile (in addition to it not saying ANYTHING is) starting it along the lines of: “I don’t know what I’m doing here”, “I know this might be a little desperate” or “I hope my friends never find this”. That to me says that they themselves have now come to the point where they feel they are desperate enough to try online dating, and that they really don’t have much of an expectation of the other people using it either.

    As for well written profiles: My now husband wrote me the coolest email ever, backed up with a cool profile. Need I say more? 🙂

    Reply
  14. ela
    ela says:

    Apparently I have a thing for redheads that are sexy, smart, literate and drop more f-bombs than the late, great Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet.
    You're to blame. But you are also right fucking on the money.
    And if you want to add my pet peeve – 'alot' is not a fucking word.

    Reply
  15. Duncande150
    Duncande150 says:

    One of my favorites is regardless vs irregardless, the first is always correct, the second technically never is but seems to be gaining common currency. I'm old school and stick to the first.

    Reply
    • Killian
      Killian says:

      Actually, Irregardless is a fantastic little restaurant in Raleigh, NC. 

      (I actually agree with you, but the restaurant name cracked me up and has fantastic food, so it’s the only way I can forgive it!)

      Reply
  16. Tanya Fleming
    Tanya Fleming says:

    Reading this article reminded me that I needed to check my match account. In doing so, I came across another common practice that I find all too annoying, overuse of exclamation points!!!!! <—like that.

    Reply
  17.  Dating
     Dating says:

    The station says Zerate met a north Harris County woman through an online dating site, and after several chats “the woman told Zerate about 5- and …

    Reply
  18. Killian
    Killian says:

    I feel the need…to add my two pet peeves…to the list…because this shit just makes it clear…that you don’t know how…to end a fucking sentence…

    The other is text-speak, but in a combo meal configuration with random acronyms and substituting numbers for letters.  (I know that last one has a name, but it escapes me.)

    Reply
    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      As someone who was once told: UR gr8, LOL! — I concur. Fully. There’s a whole keyboard sitting in front of you. Use the fucker like yesterday’s newspaper.

      Reply
  19. Beer Drinker Rob
    Beer Drinker Rob says:

    OK. I already made a comment from my iPhone keyboard but the fucking thing didn’t post.  Anyway, I am a grammar freak, though I don’t pretend to be perfect. I hate it when people can’t express themselves, hate it when they try to talk with texting lingo, and the obvious mistakes… so much so that I’ve made my own site http://www.GrammarPrude.com to share a few pet peeves. It’s neglected but not dead.

    Anyway, I haven’t had to date in the spell-check age.  But I routinely correct my wife’s grammar. Hope that counts.

    Oh, and fuck Apple for making me type (something similar) again.

    Reply
  20. Thomas Rector
    Thomas Rector says:

    Word, Erika. (I realize that has recently been dropped from the hipster usage dictionary, but there it is). I totally agree, online dating or anywhere. I go mental when I see it. Simply batshit. And am in therapy for it. But there it is. Thanks.

    Reply
  21. Rick Ladd
    Rick Ladd says:

    The last time I was in the market for a dating service, they were but a gleam in the Intertubes’ eye (and that was in my early forties). However, as a self-described Chief Inspector of the U.S. Grammar Police, I am in complete agreement with all your points regarding usage. In fact, I have a document wherein I am recording all the mistakes and malapropisms I encounter, including misspellings, and the misuse of homophones.

    Some of my pet peeves? Definately for definitely, loose for lose, site (or sight) for cite, peak (or peek) for pique, etc. ad nauseum. My list is growing despite my not actively tending it.

    I seldom post or send anything without reading it at least twice for mistakes. I try to be careful as I’m writing, but the occasional “you” for “your” escapes my aging fingers. I also sometimes substitute their for there and its for it’s, though I almost always catch them the next time around.

    All to say, my respect for good grammar/spelling/punctuation is ginormous, just like the apparent size of your breasteses sporting your pie chart about your swearing. Yay, iPhone lens foreshortening.

    Reply
  22. Chris Baron
    Chris Baron says:

    Very funny and accurate post Erika. It’s endemic. But rather than go bonkers I roll my eyes, consider myself fortunate I was warned, and move on. Just as I would if they were to mention in their profile they don’t finish their “ings” when speaking, don’t exercise, smoke a pack of cigs a day, or enjoy a fine meal now and then at Taco Bell. Because my chances of impacting their bad grammar and laziness – or putting up with it – are probably about the same as changing any of the above.

    Reply

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