Once upon a time, using a dating service was seen as something done by desperate people, and meeting someone online was unusual enough to raise eyebrows. Today, both of these have become common thanks to the proliferation of online dating services. There are perils and pitfalls involved in online dating just as with other types of dating though. Observing a few simple dos and don’ts will ensure that you aren’t putting yourself out of the game before you even get started.

1. Don’t start your profile with a long list of don’ts. In other words, don’t be negative. Maybe you’re tired of men thirty years your senior or people who clearly haven’t read your profile messaging you, but if you begin your profile with a wall of complaints about what other people on the site have been doing to annoy you, potential suitors will be more likely to move on to someone who doesn’t seem to have such a chip on her shoulder.

2. Do post flattering photos and at least one full-body photo of yourself. That you should post the best possible shots of yourself should go without saying, but a quick perusal of any online dating site will demonstrate that plenty of people don’t seem to have gotten the memo. As for the full-body shot, most people prefer to see these, and if you are self-conscious about your body type, rest assured that people’s preferences fall all across the spectrum and are not usually set to supermodel standards. Finally, consider posting a photo or two in which you are doing something interesting or active that you enjoy such as hiking or visiting your favorite city.

3. Don’t carry on endless email correspondences unless you are just looking for pen pals. This is a mistake many people make; they go back and forth over email until they have developed feelings for people they have yet to meet in the flesh or they chat online for so long that the urgency to meet peters out. The first case is dangerous because you run the risk of building up someone in your mind and then finding the chemistry just isn’t there; in the second case, in failing to move things forward early on, you may miss out on a good thing.

4. Do put something in your profile for others to respond to. You might ask a question such as “What is your idea of the perfect day?” or you might simply say something unusual about yourself that gives others a sort of “hook” to hang a response on. This has two advantages. It gives people messaging you something to talk about, and it lets you make sure that people messaging you have actually read your profile instead of just sending out scattershot messages.

5. Don’t ignore your instincts. By and large, online dating is no more dangerous than any other type of dating, but if you feel anything is off, don’t hesitate to cancel a date or leave early. Before you have actually met the person, avoid exchanging personal information including last name, place of work or home address. Arrange a check-in with a friend after the time when the date is supposed to end

6. Do begin with an open-ended coffee date. Some people say they think of the first in-person meeting after meeting someone online as a kind of pre-date. It can be difficult to draw conclusions about a person from online interactions, so the first meetup answers the question of whether you want to date this person in the first place. A coffee date is painless enough to minimize awkwardness if the date does not go well and can be extended if things are going smoothly.

Remembering to enjoy yourself is the most important thing of all. Online dating works best if approached in a lighthearted frame of mind; you may not find your soul mate, but you will at least have some fun outings and practice your dating skills.