GOTN Avatar

Top 5 tips for writing your top 10 dating tips

Yesterday I found a brilliant (read: not brilliant) article on HuffPo giving dating advice to women. You all know how much I love (read: don’t love) both HuffPo and ill-thought-out dating articles. You know the ones –  they all seem to be entitled ‘Top 10 tips for women dating’, or ‘Top 5 ways to impress a lady if you’re a man’, or occasionally even ‘Top 10 search-engine-optimised sex manoevres with which to confuse your partner.’

These articles are clearly bloody difficult to write, and the writers frequently fall into a number of traps. To prevent this happening again, and causing me to spit cider over my phone and exclaim “WHAT?! You want me to do WHAT on a first date, HuffPo?!” I have written a guide for dating writers:

Top 5 tips for writing a top 10 dating tips article

1. Try to avoid assuming we’re all stupid. Tips such as ‘post a recent photo on the dating website’ and ‘don’t play with your iPhone during the date’ rest on the rather gargantuan assumption that your readers are a herd of cackling incompetents. You might as well tell us to not to punch the waiter, or ensure we turn up wearing shoes.

2. Before you set pen to paper, try your hand at some research. If that is too tricky, why not simply haul yourself outside for five minutes and meet a real human? This might prevent you from giving tips in which you make gargantuan, sweeping proclamations about the behaviour of the entire species. Clangers such as: ‘if you’re looking to hook up on a first date, that’s fine. Just don’t expect this to lead to a real relationship’ can be easily avoided by speaking to one of the countless thousands of people who have done exactly that.

3. When editing your tips, read them with the eye of someone compiling a 1950’s guide on how to be a Good Heterosexual Partner. Tips such as ‘if you want an over 50’s man in your life, you’d better give him the ability to feel needed by taking care of things for you’ will no doubt have that particular editor smiling with delight. This is a sign that you should cut them. Immediately.

4. Consider whether your advice applies to everyone, or just to you. Advice like ‘don’t wear flattering underwear’ or ‘don’t try to suggest changes to your partner’ only apply to a very specific subset of people – the sort of people who wear flattering underwear, for instance. Or the sort of poisonous critics who are likely to explain – on a first date, no less – exactly which things their potential partner might need to change about themselves. I don’t know any of these people myself, but if you’re writing this tip down, you are probably one of them.

5. Remember that dating is neither a war nor a job interview. When I read these articles there’s an overwhelming sense that the sole purpose of going on a date is for the person you’re dating to accept you. As if the best possible thing that can happen is that they don either a Donald Trump hairpiece or an Alan Sugar beard and magnanimously announce that ‘you’re hired!’

Dating tips writers – I appreciate that on the surface your job might appear to be one of a coach – cheering your team on until they win a shiny prize, and ensnare the man or woman they’re meeting. But actually your role is far more important than that: you’re there to help people have successful dates. By encouraging people to think only about whether they’ll be accepted by their partner, you miss out the rather crucial point that they need to accept their partner too.

Every minute they spend worrying about whether their underwear is too flattering or whether they’re making their date feel ‘needed’ enough is a minute not spent finding out whether the person they’re dating is actually someone they’re interested in.

My top dating tips

1. Talk to your date

2. Listen to your date

3. Decide whether you like them

4. Find out whether they like you

5. If, by the end of the date, you know the answer to both 3 + 4, then no matter what the answers are, you’ve had a successful date.


  • This post cracks me up, and cracks me up hard. Why do so many ‘top 5 whatevers’ get written, and ‘top 10 dating’ in particular? You wouldn’t think it would be that challenging to go out and have a conversation with someone you might like, would you?

    xx Dee

    • Girl on the net says:

      It’s weird, isn’t it? I think that framing dating as something for which there are rules that you must abide by makes it, if anything, *more* nervewracking for people who find it tricky. But then ‘just go for a pint or a coffee and have a chat’ can only be said so many times before it stops sounding like exciting and useful advice =)

  • Raoul says:

    I, only have two tips for a date; 1. Try to have a nice time together, 2. If 1 is not possible, try tho have a nice time anyway and move on..

    If 1 is possible, over time you might find that having a nice time together is something you’d like to go on doing.

  • Isaac says:

    Minor change to your own top 5 – swap 1 and 2. That apart I think you’ve nailed it and ruined every dating article, advice column and quiz that will ever be written ever again. Ever. Love it.

    Oh and for the record –

    #1. Men Want To Meet The Real You

    No they don’t. They want to have a pleasant, anxiety free evening with someone who’s made an effort to look and be their best. Reality is, like death and taxes, inevitable and can be suspended for a while.

    #2. Don’t Complain About The Men In Your Life

    If it means you’re talking and I’m listening then you can say what you want about who you want. I’m learning about you all the time.

    #3. Post Current Pictures Of Yourself Online

    Yeah. Probably best.

    #4. A Man Doesn’t Want You Making Him Your Pet Project

    Unless he’s a man who wants you to make him his pet project.

    #5. You May Be Proud Of What A Strong, Independent Woman You Are But Don’t Flaunt This To An Over 50’s Man!

    Oh FFS! Go away!

    #6. Stay Off Your Cell Phone During A Date

    It’s not a man thing its a rude thing. Just don’t do it.

    #7. Don’t Drink Too Much On A First Date

    Nope. Wrong. Drink what you want. Personally, I love a date that can drink an army of squaddies under the table. We tend to get on well.

    #8. Watch What You Wear And Do On A First Date

    Oh FFS! (again). Grow up. We’re all adults.

    #9. Be Kind To Men Who Write You Online

    Hmmm apart from being condescending drivel I think you’ve revealed too much of your own experiences here.

    #10. Appreciate, Appreciate and Appreciate Some More Whatever He Does For You

    Bollocks. If he’s a prat, a tosser or a first class shit then make your excuses and go. If he’s lovely, charming and a decent human being then compliment him. Simples. It’s just basic life, love. C’mon. Seriously? Call this journalism or even writing? Meh.

  • Interesting write-up. I often find the net is full of tip-lists, most of which are about as helpful as dehydrated water. I think many of those writing the lists would accomplish more by writing frankly about the experiences that have let them to want to produce the tip. I’d rather learn the personal story and decide for myself whether or not the lessons can be generalized to my own situation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.