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Take a look at some classic personal ads.
Show don't tell. For example, it is much more effective to use humor in your personal ad rather than just saying "I have a sense of humor". Show that you are an educated and intelligent person through interesting word choice, clear ad structure, and colorful and creative descriptions.
Creativity counts. A personal ad can take many forms. A poem, perhaps. One amazing ad consisted entirely of titles -- one right after another -- of popular motion pictures, carefully chosen and arranged to describe the ad placer.
Show them what YOU would want to know. Make a list of the most important things that you would like to know about a person before responding to an ad. Chances are, others would like to know the same about you. If you work, in what field? Have you ever been married before? Do you have children? Are you looking to make some new friends, or do you want find one special person to settle down with for a lifetime? Keep in mind that common goals are often more important in a relationship than individual interests.
Age isn't everything, but... It is where a lot of people start. Be sure to include your age in the ad; if you do not want to give your exact age, narrow the range: "early twenties" or "mid forties" for example. If you are fifty but feel thirty, say so? If you are looking for someone outside your age range, give a range for the person you seek as well. Keep in mind that some people will be suspicious of a range that seems too wide -- such as "twenty to sixty", and this may limit responses. Likewise, a range too narrow (one to two years) also seems odd. Even those who fall in the narrow range might be hesitant to respond. Stating your age, and avoiding ranges altogether, is generally the best approach.
Describe yourself first. Be careful to avoid creating a personal ad that is simply a mile-long list of characteristics you seek in another, without saying much about yourself. It is better to let the person reading the ad decide if they might be a match. This does not mean that you should say nothing about what you seek, just don't overdo it. You do not want to be too picky.
Details, details. How many times have you read a personal ad that states: "I enjoy movies, music, and going out."? This sentence describes millions of people! The idea is to make yourself stand out from the rest! Instead, name a recent movie that you enjoyed. List some of your favorite music styles, song titles, or artists. If you enjoy going out to Italian restaurants, or line-dancing at a country bar on Saturday nights, say so! Ironically, it is the very details that are often overlooked as being insignificant or boring which in fact add the color and depth necessary for a personal ad to be truly effective.
Honesty is the best policy. Above all, be honest when describing yourself. No matter who you are, or what kind of person you are seeking, you have a better chance of finding that person -- and with less disappointment along the way -- if you are honest from the beginning.