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How to Use Sensory Language in Your Writing (6 Ways)

The term “sensory language” refers to language used in writing that connects the readers to real life

Let’s look at some examples and tips for how to use sensory language in your writing

Using sensory language is important in creative writing for lots of reasons, including the ones listed above

Here are a few more areas of improvement you can achieve by writing with the senses

Writing with a robust range of senses helps with reader immersion

Sensory description can help your reader feel closer to your characters

In a way, effective description should help your audience empathize with your characters, because they have a

Not only can sensory language help your audience connect with the characters, but it can also reveal

Setting up a scene with sensory language as opposed to straight listing of facts just makes a

Here’s a video that talks more in-depth about atmosphere and how to create it with sensory

Sensory language brings your story to life and lets your readers walk in the character’s shoes

Here are the general categories of sensory language, plus examples of how they might be employed

Visual description is the most frequently used and most important sense to write with

Smell can convey a lot of different things! A bad smell can make a room really uncomfortable

If you’re dropping a character in an uneasy scene, using an off-putting smell is a great

Olfactory memory is one of the most powerful emotional triggers, but it becomes tricky to write about

If you’re writing with one, you’re likely writing with the other

To enhance a sound, consider the effects that auditory sensation would have on your character

A character blasts the stereo in their car—can they feel it rattling up their spine? Maybe

Your character hears a loud and close scream that jolts them from sleep—how did that sound

Things like nervous energy, nausea, fear and other strong emotions, dizziness, and hunger also count as touch

Like a heart pounding, wind beating against your clothes, blinking rapidly

It’s great to twist more than one sense together to enhance a description

Smell and taste are very closely related—if you’re describing one, it’s easy to mesh

Similarly, many of the same words can be used for touch and sight—you can say something

Smell can affect touch as well! Something can smell warm and comforting, which would reflect in how

Sight can affect touch—think of a bright light suddenly shone on you

Or something like a description of ice cream, where your character will taste it and significantly feel

So we know why sensory language is important, and we know what is included in sensory language—

What does it look like where it is? How is it lit? What context does it hold

Once you clearly know the thing you’re describing, you can convey that idea to your readers

If you can’t “picture” it in your head, it likely won’t translate to words effectively

It’s great to state the facts of the scene in plain language, then get into the

Think of which senses are important to convey the mood, tone, and character perspective

Which senses would be the most overwhelming in that setting? What would the character notice first?

After that, they might notice the sounds—water dripping, rats scurrying, maybe the sound of pumps depending

Describing the scene in that order puts the reader in the character’s shoes, experiencing the environment

Remember: In a POV character’s scene, we should see (and hear and smell and taste and

Think about what your character would be noticing and why, then incorporate that into your sensory language

That method could be a fine way to get your first draft out! But with revisions, try

Another way to avoid the “checklist” feeling is to combine your senses

Combining them can make it seem less formulaic, plus add uniqueness to your description

As with any effective prose, the real writing happens in the revisions

Let your scene sit for a while, then look it over again and see how you like

Every writer and project is different, but make sure you take some amount of space from your

Clean prose with intentional sensory language is like a good book cover

If the presentation is sloppy, you might lose readers before they can give you a chance

So invest time and effort in your language, and happy writing!