The Smarter Dater

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Online dating can be brutal. For every great date or love connection made through the Web, there are dozens of romantic misfires — boring coffee sit-downs, awkward phone chats, and email exchanges that never go anywhere. While you'll probably end up flirting with more people than ever, odds are you'll also face more rapid-fire rejection and disillusionment.

Is that any reason to give up? Maybe not. Sometimes the secret to meeting fewer duds and more great people simply involves changing your approach. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, there's no better time to get some advice. Three new books offer to help you out.


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Andrea Orr's Meeting, Mating and Cheating (Reuters; 181 pages) offers some interesting history. As early as the 1960s, mainframe computers were used to match people up based on their looks and interests. The book also helps explain why most messages you send will probably never get a reply: on most sites, fewer than 10% of the posted profiles belong to paying members. The rest belong to trial users who may not be able to reply until they commit to a monthly fee. Orr's dry writing style won't sweep you off your feet, but Meeting, Mating and Cheating gives an insightful portrait of cyberdating.

If you want to cut to the chase, a straightforward guide is the way to go. But which one? Some, like Online Dating for Dummies by Judith Silverstein and Michael Lasky (Wiley; 288 pages) are too dumb for their own good. Dummies has the occasional good tip, like avoiding negativity in your profile, but it's packed with no-brainers like "If you don't have e-mail now, you're gonna have to get it" and "Some people, men and women, do seek purely sexual liaisons on the Internet."

One new guide is indispensible — Evan Marc Katz's "I Can't Believe I'm Buying This Book." (Ten Speed Press; 174 pages). The book's tips on everything from jazzing up your profile to polishing your first-date etiquette are so sharp that this is a must read for any online dater. "Caffeine kills a date," writes Katz, who prefers a cozier atmosphere to the ubiquitous "coffee/interview date." He adds, "Do not talk about your dysfunctional family," and "do not complain about dating."

Some of Katz's best advice centers on improving the personal essays that you post online. He gives countless suggestions on how to turn a generic line such as "I like the outdoors" into a winner like "Every May, I go up to the Appalachians with my three best buddies from college, a tent, a guitar and two cases of beer." When it comes to paying for the first date, he notes, "If a guy lets a woman split the check with him on the first date, there's no way he's getting a second date." Sorry, fellas.

Katz, who is 31 and single, writes like someone who has been in the online dating trenches and knows what he's talking about — and he was a consultant at AmericanSingles and JDate. Even if you don't agree with everything he says, his funny, upbeat tone will make you want to log on to a dating site right away and start searching for your Valentine.