Online Personals Etiquette

Make it happenThese days, people are logging on to the Web for everything from banking and business to shopping and love, and with this surge in online activity, we've seen a whole new code of manners emerge.

Social etiquette has been particularly important at online personals sites, where more and more people are going every day to look for love. Just like in any social circle the world over, this cyber-dating scene has found it necessary to develop it's own rules for making interactions smooth, civilized and friendly. So, if you're looking for a date, soul mate or friend, your best bet is to put your personals community to good use and listen up to what Miss Manners has to say to avoid any cyber-faux-pas.

Do's and Don'ts

DO stick with a reputable personals site where you can feel comfortable and safe--one that keeps your email confidential and doesn't allow profanity--this way you'll feel free to be yourself when interacting with other members.

DO be honest in your profile, and post up-to-date photos. Sometimes being yourself can be scary, but the right person will like you just as you are. Besides, if you really want to get to know someone, you're going to meet in person and the truth will come out anyway.

DO set up an email account just for cyber-dating and use a Username that reflects your personality (without being way over the top).

DON'T send the same email to everyone. Personalize your messages by responding to things mentioned in emails and profiles. (No one wants junk mail--it's a waste of time.)

DO reply to everyone who contacts you (you get a 1 week leeway). If you're not interested, a simple "Thank you, but I'm unable to correspond with you at this time." will do.

DON'T write people off right away. It takes at least a few emails to get a sense of someone.

DO be polite. Remember, there IS a person sitting on the other end of the wires.

DO use humor, especially if it's a part of your offline personality, but be careful with it. Humor doesn't always translate over the wires, and it's difficult to gage how the recipient is responding. To set the tone, add an emoticon or two, like a :) or a ;-).

DON'T say anything in an email that you wouldn't say to someone's face.

DON'T lie. Enough said.

DO start each email with a greeting (Dear, Hi, Greetings, Wassup?) and end with a closing (Sincerely, Regards, Cheers, ‘Til soon) and your name.

DON'T use profanity or tell off-color jokes.

DO have reasonable expectations and take it in stride if a relationship doesn't work out. DON'T take things too personally-some people have no manners ;-) .

DON'T email someone's ear off. In other words, don't "talk" too much and don't tell your whole life story right away. Leave something for when you get together.

DO ask questions to create an open-ended conversation.

DO respect the other person's privacy. DON'T ask for personal contact information or answers to extremely personal questions right away.

DON'T push anyone. If they say they don't want to communicate with you, need more time before opening up, or are not ready to meet in person, they're not playing hard to get. Get it?

DON'T hesitate to ask someone out once you get the feeling that you're both into it--use your intuition, just like you would offline. This applies to guys and gals alike. Traditional or non-traditional offline? Be true to yourself in the cyber-world--it's real too.

If you're interested, DO go out with someone you meet online, but start with a short date in a public place. That way, if your feelings differ offline, you have an easy out.

DO send a follow-up email after an offline date, whether it's to say thanks, but no thanks, or to reaffirm how much fun you had.

DON'T string anyone along just because you don't know how to say "no" or like the ego boost.

DO play the field. Just as long as you're being honest and having fun, it's okay to keep contacting as many people as you like until you find someone you're interested in. After all, meeting new people is what dating is all about.