Heart Searching: Getting write to the heart: Lonely heart, GSOH, cultured, charming, sensuous, discreet, WLTM someone for advice on how to write a small ad. Carole Smythe can help

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Constructing an advertisement in order to find a mate - for whatever purpose - is as difficult as taking a photograph in a mirror without the camera showing.

It's not easy, especially as you have to encapsulate the unique and sparkling essence of your soul in only a few words. At around pounds 40 a throw, this is an exercise that demands a cunning and creative strategy. As a devoted student of the genre, let me offer a few tips for would-be punters.

First, know your readers. The class war is still happening. Ladies and gentlemen do not read the Independent, but men and women do. Gentlemen looking for women and ladies seeking men, therefore, are heading for the wastepaper basket.

In any case, ladies and gentlemen are not the sort of people who are going to indulge in a spot of sofa-bonking, even if they have read a book, visited an art gallery or gone to the theatre beforehand. If it is gentility you're looking for, try the Lady.

Avoid short cuts. GSOH may save money and space, but the woman who said she was looking for a 'bit of meaningful legover' displayed something far more important - real wit. For the same reason, avoid this WLTM thing. Of course you would. That's why you're advertising.

Don't be afraid to state your preferences. The man who wrote 'lipstick essential' was doing possible respondents a favour: what he actually meant was that no earthy slags, drifting through life in a sandalwood fug wearing handwoven sandals occupying a tree overlooking a threatened badger sett and living on a diet of tofu need apply. And all in two words.

And men, a special word of warning: your independent woman may be looking for a friend in life, but not necessarily for life. Avoid references to phrases such as 'long-term', 'children' or 'future togetherness'. For one thing, the woman you hope will read your ad may have enough children already.

For another, she may have her own house, and the prospect of having to share it with someone forever may not be hugely tempting. So keep it light. Leave the door open behind you. Remember - two houses can be better fun than one.

Please don't say that you are sensuous/cultured/charming. If you feel the need to say it, you probably aren't. However, you will probably be a whole host of

other things that are far more interesting.

Work hard on this one - go for the image. Do you like doing things with feather dusters, for instance, or reading Auden in the bath while sipping a glass of Antiguan rum? If you do, then for heaven's sake, say so.

Avoid the word 'discreet'. It means only one thing: borrowing a friend's flat in the afternoon and they've left itchy, dirty sheets on the bed, or driving to a crummy pub on the other side of town so no one will recognise the car, then having to cancel because it's parents' evening.

Don't tie yourself to one geographic area. Love knows no bounds, and if it's adventure you're looking for, be prepared to travel. Away-days have more to offer than stay-at-home days. Remember all those soft-focus British Rail adverts?

But now it's time to write yours. Pick up the pen, call down the Muse - you have nothing to lose but your heart.