The rules of dating have changed. Forget that stuff about playing hard to get, expecting the man to pay, and never having sex on a first date. Today’s rules are a little more user-friendly – but some of them may surprise you. Read on to discover the new rules of engagement.

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1. Modesty is a turn-off
Many dating profiles start with statements like: “I’m no good at this kind of thing”. The writers are doing themselves no favours. If you put yourself down, you won’t sound attractively self-effacing. You’ll sound needy and insecure.

2. … and so is bragging
Confidence is sexy; arrogance is not. “I cook a mean paella and I’ll always try to make you laugh” is good, but “I have a fantastic job and no-one can understand why I’m single” is not.

3. “I love music and being with friends.” Well, duh!
The aim of the online dating game is to catch the eye of someone you have lots in common with. You do this by being original and, above all, specific about your interests. Instead of saying that you like sunsets, mention the best sunset you’ve ever seen. Say which music you like, and your favourite place to see your friends. Specific information does more than make you sound interesting – it also gives potential dates something to write to you about.

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4. Never admit that your friend wrote your profile
“I asked my friend to describe me, and here’s what he wrote…” is a cop-out. By writing this in your profile, you’re telling people that you’re not smart or self-aware enough to write it yourself.

5. Zip up your baggage
Most living grown-ups have a history of exes, hang-ups and maybe a nervous breakdown or two. But never admit it to a new or potential lover. They know that you have a past, but they don’t want to hear about it. Keep schtum until you know each other better.

6. Ditch the wish list
Some online dating profiles read like shopping lists. They’re looking for someone with brown eyes, short hair, between 5’10” and 6′, from north-east Birmingham, and so on. These lists are off-putting for two reasons. First, they make the writer sound like a control freak. Second, they sound like an exact description of the writer’s ex.

7. No photo? No chance
Don’t even think about posting a dating advert without a photo. A picture-less ad says: “I am so ugly I didn’t want to risk a photo,” “I am married,” or “I am on the run from Broadmoor.”

8. Only one photo? Hmm…
Everyone who likes your main photo will want to see more. Not because they can’t get enough of you, but because a single photo is not a reliable indicator of what you look like. Post at least two snaps.

9. Don’t lie with the camera
An overly flattering photo will backfire. The potential dates come knocking, and then what? You meet, and the blood drains from their face as they realise that your photo was taken 10 years, five stone and 500 wrinkles ago.

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10. Sexy snaps will get you nowhere
Whether you’re a man or a woman, a photo with your shirt off makes you look desperate and/or only interested in sex.

11. Don’t fall in lust with a photo
Use photos and emails for spotting potential, but don’t start fancying the pants off a two-dimensional image. You may be disappointed in person.

12. You might not get any emails
This is a cruel fact of life for online dating beginners, especially men. More men than women advertise on most dating sites, so the girls get the pick of the bunch. Don’t get despondent. Read the profiles that get most views, and pick up tips from them. Tweak your ad and try changing your photos. Also – have you contacted anyone yourself?

13. Playing hard to get doesn’t work
Be proactive. You don’t have to write someone an epic love letter (please don’t) – just pick out a couple of appealing points in their ad and write a quick intro email. Likewise, you won’t “keep them keen” by making them wait days for a reply. They’ll find someone else to date. Time moves fast in online dating.

14. You don’t have to reply
Some rookies assume that they must answer every email, even if it’s “thanks, but no thanks”. Don’t bother. “Thanks but no thanks” can feel more hurtful than no reply.

15. Meet quickly, or stop emailing
Don’t allow an email conversation to drag on for weeks without a date. You may think you’re “connecting”, but you can’t judge chemistry unless you meet up. Six emails in total – not each – is enough to know whether you want a date.

16. Don’t expect too much from a first date
You’re meeting a stranger. Chances are that you won’t fancy each other, or that only one of you will fancy the other. So don’t fantasise too much.

17. It may take many dates to find someone you like
It’s easy to lose faith when your first few dates don’t work out. It’s very unusual for someone to find a good match in their first few attempts. See it all as experience, not as proof that you’re a loser (or that everyone else is a loser). Learn from your bad and boring dates and try again.

18. Split the bill
You’re two grown-ups, not a sugardaddy and his gold-digger. Chivalry means being attentive, thoughtful and fair, not paying for all the food.

19. Have sex if you want – and not if you don’t want
Having sex doesn’t make you morally corrupt, and it won’t necessarily wreck your chances of a relationship. If you’re both adults, single and you use protection, it’s your choice – but if you’d rather not, that’s your choice too. Never be pushed into sex that you don’t want.

20. Call them the next day
Ignore those rules about waiting three days to get in touch. If you like someone, you have nothing to lose by letting them know. If they are interested, they’ll be happy that you called. If they’re not interested, at least you’ll know – and you can move on to the next date. Back to home.

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