Why writers have an unfair edge

Of course, if you actually write her a story, she might just think you’re nuts

Here’s a hypothesis pertaining to the men of OkCupid: those of you who can write well have an unfair advantage over those who can’t. For a man of OkCupid to be able to write well is a bit like a girl of OkCupid having mastered the MySpace angle – it doesn’t matter how obnoxious you are in person; online you’re going to have the edge.

Now, I may as well come clean about my own biases: I’m not so much a grammar Nazi as I am a kind of mad, moustachioed grammar Führer. Misplaced apostrophes, tangled syntax and excessive exclamation marks actually make my eyes bleed.

When I see the word ‘you’re’ rendered as ‘your’, the absent apostrophe sears through my retina and embeds itself like a burning splint in my brain. When I go the supermarket and see the ’10 items or fewer’ aisle expressed as ’10 items or less’, I have to lie down in a darkened room for ten minutes while I weep, gnash my teeth, and pen a furious letter to a middle-England newspaper about the state of broken Britain.

In short, I’m the sort of person who basically doesn’t deserve to go to parties. And the pointlessness of my pedantry is underscored almost every time I talk to someone I know and like online.

A good friend of mine is dyslexic. On Facebook chat, she reads like her words lost a fight with a shredding machine. In real life, however, her spelling has as little bearing on her intelligence as David Beckham’s squeaky voice has on the goldenness of his balls.

I once went out with a guy I met while walking down the street. Warm, charismatic and sucker-punchingly funny in person, he did himself a disservice on the internet. If I’d encountered him on a dating site, I’d have noted his penchant for text speak and deleted his message on entry.

And indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if, buried in the mass grave of aborted proto-romances, there’s someone like that; someone with whom I’d be wildly compatible if only they’d chatted me up in real life.

But this is where it becomes a game of luck. You might as well write people’s names on a pack of cards, and date whichever one you pick out, hoping to God it’s not the joker. Dating is never that egalitarian. We’re so attuned to markers of attractiveness, that in the absence of real-world cues, we attribute an undeserving importance to whatever can be conveyed online.

And what can be conveyed online – conveyed by writing – are attributes like intelligence, or erudition, or articulacy, or imagination. Attributes that will frequently overspill their bounds into your dinner date.

Such is my rationale, in any case, for almost exclusively having dated guys whose messages were well-crafted.  Of course, all it really means in practice is that they’re good at composing well-crafted messages – a skill no more deeply revealing than the ability to do differential equations. A clever bit of self fashioning does not a great date make.

Reason no. 702 not to bother with online dating. Even I would take personal charm over semi-colons.

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