How I Learned To Use Sensory Words In My Writing

How I Learned To Use Sensory Words In My Writing

Can you feel, touch, taste, smell and hear these sensory words?


Drops of sweat peek through his shirt as we walk down the quaint, uneven gray-bricked street.

Our shirts begin to stick like wet paper to our backs.

Yea, today is a hot one! A piping 98 degrees is in the forecast for Texas.

Kids laughter fill the air as they dodge in and out of the magical water fountains that ooze a fresh chlorine aroma.

You can hear the pitter patter from the water splashing against and between their teeny-weeny toes.

Gentle breezes with sprinkles of fountain dew sparingly burst through the heatwaves and almost suffocating air. The coolness calms your sweat beads leading you to exhale in relief.

Everyone rushes to shaded areas from the royal blue erect umbrellas accented with the comfort of lounging furniture to enjoy the water fountain show.

Hubby and I love to visit this place called Sundance Square. We enjoy visiting different scenic mini parks with fun activities for the community.

The area is full of the arts, some high-end stores, lots of restaurants and entertainment for families, couples, the working-class and friends.

You can tell the city put much creative thought and effort into this area to bring together all communities for fun, relaxation, and enjoyment.

During moments of pause from our conversations, I began to reflect on my Art class from undergrad and former students in my English classes.

Where The Sensory Words Technique Began

My professor, like most art teachers, encouraged us to go outside, find scenes of interest, sit and draw them in our drawing books with charcoal.

Of course, by this time, we already had the lesson about understanding how to use the shades for charcoal drawing.

What I didn’t realize at the time that I notice now is we were using sensory language in the form of art and writing. The artwork isn’t complete without a description or explanation.

She monitored our process in class. Gave us lots of practice time with different still life charcoal drawing activities.

A similar experience took place during my Advanced Creative Writing class.

We visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

At the time, our class covered poetry writing. We had freedom in the museum to visit different exhibits.

The instruction was to meet back with a written poem from a piece that truly resonated with us.

I remember sitting in front of the piece Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock —one of my absolute favorites might I add.

And, I wrote a poem explaining my interpretation of this unique artwork. When compared to his other works of art, Pollock uses less vibrant colors for this piece.

It put me in the mood of jazz improvisations and in the mind of Toni Morrison’s writing advice. She says it’s good to have a “jazz-like style” to your writing. This means your writings demonstrate “no restraints.”

This poem ended up published in my college’s magazine.

Teaching Others Sensory Language Made My Writing Stronger

So, I connected these lessons to writing with details as an English classroom teacher.

When teaching my students how to write using details, we’d go outside and use a still life to write an explanation using sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell.

To understand how to write like this, I modeled writing examples to show how to use one literary device called sensory words.

Sensory words use all five senses. They include sight, touch, smell, hearing, and feeling. Using sensory words increases your ability to write in details. It’s also great practice for the usage of adjectives.

So, if you struggle with using the right amount of description in your writing. This method and above exercises can really help.

The device uses details to keep your readers interest and engaged in writing. Believe it or not, sensory language is used daily in many forms of writing.

Writers employ sensory language in essays, poems, short stories, novels, novellas, memoirs, web copy, marketing sales copy–to name a few.

According to Sophia dot org, “sensory language is a way for a writer to help the reader see or connect with an image, description, action, or scene.”

It creates strong descriptions and images in the minds of your readers. I’d also like to add that it makes your writing more colorful and less bland or boring.

Believe it or not, studies show how the brain reacts when reading sensory words. Many light bulbs come on per se. Our brains literally process the words as the action occurs.

If you write the words he tasted the cake called better than sex, the lady loves to wear flashy girly-girl colors, or his hands are rough as sandpaper, your audience will process these sensory words.

Writing dot com offers an incredibly fleshed out list of words for each sensory word category. Here’s a small list from their site for your consideration:

Sight: Colors, Shapes, Sizes, Appearance
Hearing: Crash, Squawk, Crackle, Chime, Ring
Taste: Oily, Rich, Bland, Ripe, Buttery
Smell: Sweet, Piney, Acrid, Sickly, Scented
Touch: Cool, Wet, Silky, Sandy, Cold

What I suggest For More Sensory Words Writing Practice

Take a moment or much needed relaxing break. Go visit a place for writing practice or one that connects to what you’re writing.

Create five columns. Label the top of each one with sight, touch, hear, taste and smell Sit quietly for a few. Absorb your surroundings. Observe everything.

Then, fill in each column based on what you see. Move around to get various angles just as if it were still life.

Sometimes writing from different angles adds more flavor to the scenario or character.


Overall, keep this important piece in mind. Your writing style is not meant to look like, feel like, taste like, be heard like, or touch like others.

If you’ve hesitated using sensory words before, hopefully now you’ll feel comfortable enough to include them more in your style. No worries. You’ll find the perfect balance using them. Remember, practice makes perfect.

This article was originally published in The Writing Cooperative at

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