Your Grammar Needs a Wingman

Online dating is a mecca for bad spellers

Dating is hard for me. But I actually feel like my bar isn’t set that high: Writer/professor type ISO decent-looking man who doesn’t mind that my pitbull sleeps on the bed and that I come home most nights smelling like a horse. Must be able to construct complete sentences and spell.

I feel like this last part is where I go awry, and my criteria even seems to offend people. Not the pitbull part — the spelling test. Potential suitors see that caveat and take it as a writer’s form of cock block. Writer’s cock block.

A recent missive from a man who was trying to start a conversation with me on OkCupid starts off: “I have found over educated women are not very passionate.”

My first thought was “overeducated is one word, not two, asshole.” He went on to assure me he felt I could become passionate if he gave me a massage. The only reason I didn’t hit delete on his OkCupid (or, as I crack myself up and call it, OkStupid) message was because I was planning ahead and thought maybe I could use it for a future snarky story about online dating. Mission accomplished.

I don’t like dating, but I don’t like dating advice either. I do allow my friend Becky to give me relationship advice. Sometimes. Mostly because, in my world, she has the perfect marriage. Her husband is gone a lot, she lives on a farm and has lots of horses and dogs. Oh, and she loves him. But back to the dogs and horses.

When I think about dating, it falls into the context of “Hmm, I wonder if I met someone and got married, would that mean I could afford a bigger place and therefore have more room for more ponies and pitbulls?”

Currently I have three very big dogs and two even bigger horses.

When I have thoughts like that, often late at night while snuggled on the sofa with a whiskey and a dog or two, I get online and see what’s out there. Maybe it’s just the way things seem on the internet, but when it comes to online dating, it’s like what they say about Alaska: The odds are good but the goods are odd.

And as a whole, the goods can’t spell. This is where Becky and I part ways. I once briefly dated a nice man who I met online. I liked him, and Becky liked him; he liked dogs. The trouble was he wasn’t a very good writer. He could spell so he passed my initial cutoff, and we met in person, but as I told Becky, “I can’t date a man whose writing I don’t enjoy. It’s like dating a man you think is sexy with his clothes on but who you don’t like to see naked.”

She told me, “I think you need to see past that. Otherwise you are going to get old and die alone.”

Alone except for a pack of dogs and horses. I’m taking crazy cat lady to a whole new level and making it sexy.

Becky met her husband while she was bartending in Alaska. The first night they met, she 86ed him from the bar. If that’s not meeting cute, then I don’t know what is. The thing is, they’ve been together for almost 20 years, and that means she is useless to me in terms of online dating advice, as they met back in the days where you could take out an ad in the paper that starts off, “If you like piña coladas” and find the love of your life.

Given my aspirations to be a hot, crazy animal lady living alone on a farm, I’m not that committed to online dating. This means I don’t pay for dating apps and sites and just use the free ones. That could be a flaw in my technique.

Tinder, for example, is bad for my dyslexia and my tendency to overthink. It’s like a card game. A dude’s picture comes up and you swipe left if you like him and right if you don’t. Or is it right if you do? I don’t know, and this means I think I have “liked” a lot of dudes who are 20 years older than me with pornstaches who say things like “LOL I’m just here to get dates” or “I don’t want drama,” which is dude-speak for “I am kind of jerk who makes my girlfriend insane then blames it on her.” Tinder has gotten me nowhere.

OkCupid has resulted in some dates. Now, I don’t make dates with every guy who’s vaguely attractive, likes dogs and can spell, but I have been more prone to make dates with those who fit that criteria. I’ve learned to weed through them a little now — you know, exchange a couple messages to ensure the ability to spell wasn’t a one-off moment and that I like what they have to say. Unlike photos, where I have discovered people can post pictures of themselves that make it strangely hard to recognize them when you meet in person, bad writing is hard to cover up.

I’m not a total grammar nerd. I forgive people who confuse its and it’s, and typos happen. But I can’t get past a message that starts off “U r so beautiful, hun.”

Each time I log on to OkCupid it’s like opening a door to some kind of weird hell for geeks. “Well it seems I lost points right there for callin u cutie.” Well, yes, but you get one point for capitalizing “I.” Spelling aside, I also get a little speechless when I get messages like: “I am an artist, painting in subliminal imagery flora cents and glow in the dark. Teaching my self how to paint in three-d.”

OkCupid adds insult to injury with its stalker-mode where people can see you are online or that you checked them out. Inevitably, as I get a little drunk with Becky — whose job it is to help me see that nice man behind the bad spelling — and we start looking at profiles, a whole new flurry of bad grammar makes its way to my inbox.

Here’s my suggestion to potential dates: You need a grammar wingman. It turns out I’m far from the only grammar Nazi single lady out there. I have a friend who lives in Seattle who couldn’t believe that in a city that large, no cute guy knew how to spell. I looked at her profile and pointed out she wasn’t using capital letters. Not even for “i.”

“I know,” she said. “That’s my style.” I pointed out that online dating lacks a certain nuance and suggested that to catch good grammarians, you have to dangle a little good grammar in front of them.

It turns out that men are actually more forgiving of errors (if not “drama”) than ladies are. According to a study by Grammarly and eHarmony: “Compared to a man who makes zero spelling errors, a man with two spelling errors in his online dating profile is 14 percent less likely to receive a positive response from the average woman. Poor spelling by a woman, on the other hand, did not seem to have any impact on her chances of a positive match.”

Here’s the moral of the story: You need a wingman if you don’t want to die alone. He can read over your profile and correct your errors.

Then he can read my profile and gently point out to you that my quibbles over spelling are not the issue here. Perhaps you should be more worried about other things. Like the fact that I seem to be looking for a relationship so I can maximize acreage for a growing accumulation of large, often dangerous hooved mammals and cute, if sometimes obstreperous, pitbulls.


1. Couple, when used as an adjective does not need the preposition of, see Merriam-Webster.

2. While criterion is indeed the singlular of criteria per the Latin form, the writer went with the half-century of usage of criteria (see Merriam-Webster again) as the singular as it was more in keeping with the conversational tone of the piece, and as The Grammarist points out, criteria is already more common in current news organizations.