Did you ever look at someone earnestly and say, “Explain it to me like I am a third grader?” Maybe you were about to sign a mortgage … or rebuild a carburetor ...or perform an emergency appendectomy with a pocketknife. Unless you are actually nine years old, that sentence implies that you want to start with the fundamentals. You want the obvious explicitly stated.

For instance, on a mortgage, what does “Seller is not required by law to disclose paranormal activity” mean? Is your beautiful blonde daughter going to get sucked through the TV screen into some sort of fourth-dimensional wormhole to hell? “Let’s walk back over that phrase, Bob, because I feel like that could be important.” Similarly, with a carburetor, you want to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s. You can’t just leave out a gasket and expect your vintage Chevy to hum like a top, and you can’t just flip open your Old Granddad and start sawing a hole in someone’s stomach. There are procedures and protocols. At the very least you are going to want to boil some water, tear up some bedsheets, and file the rust off the blade.

Now, I could lie to you and tell you than online dating is simple, intuitive, and prone to occasional disaster—sort of like an iPhone 6, but only one of those things would be true. Dating and relationships are never simple, because they involve people (at least for the time being) and people, even in the most optimistic analysis, are an absolute mess. They come with all sorts of neuroses, physical and emotional scarring, diseases (both curable and incurable), infirmities, hairbrained ideas, and bizarre quirks. It’s as if our human software (and hardware) were programmed to be inherently flawed—OK, “beautifully flawed” if you want to be romantic about it.

You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t at least a little romantic, right? So let’s try to mitigate some errors right off the bat by assuming that when it comes to online dating, your heart’s in the right place, but you forgot to bring your head.

Online Dating Tip #1: Be Honest

Save yourself and everybody else some time by making a sincere and honest examination of who you are. You can maybe even ask a friend (or friends) to help you with filling out your profile. Even if you think you’re unremarkable, you’re not. You’re a beautiful snowflake. You just need some help describing that snowflake. Your friends will be great at that. After all, they like you enough to be your friend. Resist the temptation to portray yourself as something you’re not in order to attract more dates. One quality date is worth a hundred crappy ones.

Online Dating Tip #2: Post a Good Picture

Your profile photo doesn’t have to be a glamour shot, but it also shouldn’t be a blurry action photo of you walking your Labrador. All you need is one good headshot and one full body shot. Once again, get a friend to help you with this. Don’t take one of those creepy bathroom mirror selfies. If you decide to go with the glamour shot, remember Rule #1. It never hurts to show some skin—as long as it’s your own skin and not something you made out of the skin of your serial murder victims. Make sure your photos are recent, too. No high school yearbook photos or that one picture from 10 years ago when you really liked the way your hair looked. Ideally your photo should include only you and not you with your ex—and absolutely don’t include a photo of you with your ex only partially cropped out. Sketchy. Super sketchy.

Online Dating Tip #3: Don’t Get Too Racy with Your Username

“Wet Nurse” may seem perfect for medical professional who likes swimming, but might yield negative results in online dating. “Player” might seem like a good summation of your love for tennis, but others might see it differently. Lastly, if you’re going to put a number in your username, don’t use 69. Not even if you actually are 69. Ew. Better to say you’re 70.

Online Dating Tip #4: Keep an Open Mind

As you will discover yourself, it’s not easy to describe yourself fully or interestingly on a dating site. Allow for that. Understand that imperfections in a profile don’t necessarily mean imperfections in a person. Give yourself a chance to get to know people a bit beyond their profile before writing them off entirely—unless they use “69” in their username. Then you can drop them like a hot potato. Yes, some people are going to disappoint you, but others are going to amaze you in the most unexpected ways.

All right, that’s more than enough for this week. You’ve got your work cut out for you.