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February 14, 1999 - Valentine's Day

INTRO: February 14th is Valentine's Day, a special time for sweethearts. It's a day of wine and roses -- and lots of chocolate. In the spirit of romance, Wordmasters Avi Arditti and Rosanne Skirble introduce you to a writer who helps people who are looking for love.

MUSIC: "Looking for Love"/Johnny Lee

AA: When Americans go looking for love, one place they might check is the personals. I'm Avi Arditti.

RS: And I'm Rosanne Skirble. We're talking about personal advertisements. These "personals" can be found in newspapers, magazines, telephone voice mail services and Internet Web sites.

AA: A personal ad lets you describe who you are and what you're in search of in a mate.

RS: Since the ads are anonymous, you're free to pick and choose from the responses you get.

AA: That's where Susan Fox comes in. Susan Fox is a writer in Boston. After meeting her husband through a personal ad, she's made a full-time job out of writing personals for other people.

RS: Clients pay this former therapist hundreds of dollars to find the several dozen or more words that capture a portrait of themselves.

AA: If you want to catch a fish, you need the right hook. Susan Fox says the hook in this case is the lead line of the ad.


"Mediterranean soul, Anglo-Saxon head, passionate heart, inquisitive mind, tough but gentle, rugged and earthy. We're not saying he's the world's most gorgeous man. It goes on to say 'once worked as a cowboy.' It's all true. This is a legitimate portrait of who this man is, and I think that is the sort of thing that people have to be very careful about. You don't want to describe yourself as a gorgeous blue-eyed blonde when you're an average looking sort of dumpy brown-haired woman."

RS: Susan Fox calls her Boston company Personals Work. She has clients -- mostly women -- across the country, plus some overseas.

AA: She says about fifty percent of her clients find the lasting relationships they're looking for.

RS: We asked Susan Fox to help us decipher some of the abbreviations that often appear in ordinary personal ads.


AA: "Attractive slim, swf, ns, nd, iso, slim professional, dwm 35-45, 6 foot plus with traditional values."

SUSAN FOX: "First of all the 'iso' means 'in search of.' We don't use that because I personally believe that it just looks ugly on the paper, that particular abbreviation. Iso, what in the world is that. But it means 'in search of'. 'Ns' is non-smoking. 'Nd,' I'm not sure what 'nd' is. It might be 'non-denominational.' In some places it is non-denominational. That ad is a kind of ad that really doesn't give a sense of who this person is. Again, who is she. She is slim. And she's in search of this guy, but beyond that, who is she?"

AA: Susan Fox says a personal ad should not sound too cute. She says using a term like "Romeo seeks juliet" tends to bring out "weirdos" -- her word.

RS: We asked her for some free advise for those who want to write an ad on their own.


"If you're a woman, by all means let people know that you are trim, thin or slender if you are because it is sort of damnation by omission. Don't leave that out.

If you are a man and you are professional and you are stable, let women know that because that is a gender difference that we generally find that it is very important to most women that the man be employed, financially responsible, and it's important to most men that she be at least trim and fit and attractive.

AA: And speaking of love this Valentine's Day ...

RS: We'd love you to add your ideas to the Wordmaster Name the Next Decade contest. What should we call the next ten years. You'll get a VOA souvenir just for entering.

AA: The deadline is March 2.

RS: With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.

MUSIC: "All You Need is Love"/Beatles