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Online daters: check your language and spelling, good language makes attractive

Published: 13th October 2021 Last updated: 04th July 2023

PhD student Tess van der Zanden investigated how the language used in online dating profiles can differ and how this influences impressions about the attractiveness of the profile owner. She compared 12,000 dating profiles and surveyed online daters for her empirical research on which she will obtain her PhD on October 22.

Van der Zanden first examined the profile construction phase in which users create a profile (text) to present themselves. Next, the profile processing phase in which observers view profiles of others and process the information on them. And finally, the impression formation phase in which readers form impressions about profile owners based on that processing.

Originality and language scoring
The language used by daters seeking a permanent relationship is both consciously and unconsciously influenced by this relationship goal. Unconsciously by referring more to themselves (for instance "I") and consciously by mentioning, strategically, certain personality traits considered important in a reliable relationship.

Owners of profiles that scored high on text originality were seen as more intelligent and funnier, which in turn caused them to also be rated as more attractive (for dating). This was especially successful if more revealed (concrete) personal information and used metaphors. 

Language errors affect if profile picture is moderately attractive
Language errors have an effect on the impressions people form about dating intentions and the personality and attractiveness of the profile picture. This shows that language errors serve as an important data point for impression formation. But not the only one. Because although language errors have a negative effect on physical attractiveness when a profile contains an averagely attractive photo, this is not the case with an (very) attractive or (very) unattractive photo.

Van der Zanden: 'In the case of dating profiles where so little data is available, each piece of information can already have a major impact on how your personality or attractiveness is judged. On dating platforms where the text is an important part of the profile, I can recommend online daters not only to think about what they write about themselves for their profile, but also how they write the text. For example, language errors are best avoided and an original text with metaphors, for example, is actually recommended.'

Tess van der Zanden will receive her PhD from the Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences on October 22, 13.30 in the auditorium of Tilburg University. Her dissertation is titled: Language Use and Impression Formation: The Effects of Linguistic Cues in Online Dating Profiles. For more information please contact Tess van der Zanden (t.vdrzanden@tilburguniversity.edu).