Personal ads

"Personals" redirects here. For other uses, see Personal (disambiguation).
"W4m" redirects here. For the video game, see Worms 4: Mayhem.

A personal or personal ad is an item or notice traditionally in the newspaper, similar to a classified advertisement but in nature. In British English it is also commonly known as an advert in a lonely hearts column.[1] With its rise in popularity, the World Wide Web has also become a common medium for personals, commonly referred to as online dating. Personals are generally meant to generate romance, friendship, or casual (sometimes sexual) encounters, and usually include a basic description of the person posting it, and their interests.

Newspapers and magazines that take personal advertisements often provide a reply forwarding service; in this case, the text of the advert will include a unique box number and anyone wishing to reply to the advert sends or delivers their reply to the publisher's address in an envelope bearing that number. The publisher forwards replies in bulk to the advertiser at a given interval, for example each week.

Another method of replying to Lonely Hearts adverts is via telephone; this took off with the introduction of premium-rate telephone numbers, providing an additional way for the publisher to generate money. The usual business model is for the advertiser to be enticed to place an advert free of charge (using an 0800 number or equivalent); those replying (and also the advertiser, when they want to check for any replies) must use a premium-rate line.

Due to newspaper prices being based on characters or lines of text, a jargon of abbreviations, acronyms and code words arose in personals and have often carried over to the internet.

List of single-letter abbreviations

The following are examples of single-letter abbreviations used in three-letter acronyms (TLAs).

If a personal advert includes a TLA, it could be to describe the person who is seeking and/or the kind of person they seek; for example, an advert stating 'DLF for SJT' means that a divorced Latina female is searching for a single Jewish transgendered person.

First letter

The first letter often describes the relationship state or sexuality of the person:

Middle letter

The middle letter generally represents the ethnicity or nationality of the person posting the ad. Can be replaced by 4, standing for the word for ("seeking", "desires", etc.).

Last letter

The third letter commonly describes the gender of the person (or couple, if that is what is seeking or sought).

List of miscellaneous abbreviations

As well as three-letter abbreviations of the format described above, a number of other acronyms and abbreviated words have been popular in personal adverts at different times and in different places. This list is far from complete:

  • ALA: all letters answered
  • ALAWP: all letters answered with a photo (probably means the advertiser will only reply to letters that attach a photo)
  • GSOH: good sense of humor
  • ISO: in search of
  • LTR: long-term relationship
  • MBA: mutual business arrangement
  • NSc: non-scene
  • OHAC: own house and car
  • PnP: party and play
  • WE: well endowed
  • WLTM: would like to meet
  • nnYO: nn years old; for example, 23yo = 23 years old
  • NSA: No Strings Attached

Personal advertisements in popular culture

See also



Further reading

  • Francesca Beauman, Shapely Ankle Preferr'd: A History of the Lonely Hearts Ad 1695-2010, Chatto & Windus, 2011
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