Itâs almost too easy.
By using sensory words to evoke sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell; smart and attractive writers just like you are able to make their words burst to life in their readersâ minds.
In this post, youâll learn:
Letâs dive in.
The Colossal Power of Sensory Details
Remember the final scene in Field of Dreams when Ray Kinsella has a catch with his dad?
You can smell the grass on the field.
You can hear the sound of the baseball hitting their gloves.
And you can feel Rayâs years of guilt melting away as he closes his eyes, smiles, and tosses the ball back to his dad.
(Be honest. Youâre crying right now, arenât you?)
Field of Dreams made you feel like you were in Rayâs shoes, on his field, playing catch with dad.
The scene creates such a vivid experience for many viewers that whenever they think of playing catch, this scene will come up alongside their own childhood memories.
When you paint a strong scene in your audienceâs mind, you make it easier for them to pull it back up from their memory. Youâve essentially bookmarked it for them so they can easily find it when something â a sight, a smell, a sound â reminds them of it.
Thatâs the power of content that incorporates sensory details.
And this power isnât limited to cinema classics capable of making grown men cry. For centuries, literary giants have been packing their prose with powerful words that evoke the senses:
In addition to The Bard, authors like Maya Angelou, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charles Dickens excel at sensory language. So do literally every famous poet you learned about in school.
And that begs the obvious questionâ¦
Why are Sensory Details so Effective?
Our brains handle sensory words differently than ordinary words.
In a 2011 study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, experts found that our brains process âtangibleâ (i.e. sensory) words faster than other words.
And in a study published for Brain and Language in 2012, psychologists found that a certain part of our brain is âactivatedâ when we read sensory words.
In other words:
So, we know why sensory details are powerful. And we know writers have been tapping into their power for a long, long time.
Now letâs define them and go over a few examples:
What are Sensory Words?
Sensory words are descriptive words â using imagery, they describe how we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the world around us.
Letâs break each one down:
#1. Sight Sensory Words
Words related to vision describe the appearance of something (its color, size, shape, and so on).
Examples of visual words:
#2. Sound Sensory Words
Words related to hearing often describe the sound they make (known as onomatopoeia), but this isnât always the case.
Examples of hearing words:
#3. Touch Sensory Words
Touch words describe the texture of how something feels. They can also describe emotional feelings.
Examples of touch words:
#4. Taste Sensory Words
Taste words are interesting. Though they can describe food, theyâre often used in comparisons and metaphors.
Examples of taste words:
#5. Smell Sensory Words
Words related to smell describe â yes, you guessed it â how things smell. Often underutilized, sensory words connected with smell can be very effective.
Examples of smell words:
Note on Taste and Smell:
Because theyâre closely related, some sensory words can be used for both taste and smell. Examples: fruity, minty, and tantalizing.
Sensory Details: Examples in the Wild
Imagine the following headline came across your Twitter feed:
Would you click it?
Could you read the headline without falling asleep?
The answers are probably ânoâ and âheck no.â
Now imagine you saw this headline:
Much better, right?
The simple addition of the sensory word âcringeworthyâ changes the tone of the entire headline. Instead of yawning, youâre thinking of an awkward or embarrassing moment you really donât want to relive.
Letâs look at a few more modern-day examples of sharp people using sensory language to spruce up their content:
Using Sensory Words in Author Bios
Iâll pick on me for this one.
Hereâs the author bio I used for one of my first-ever guest posts:
Now look at the author bio my friend Henneke wrote for Writerâs Block: 27 Techniques to Overcome It Forever:
My bio is devoid of sensory words (or any interesting words at all, if weâre being honest).
Hennekeâs is chock full of them.
Her bio is interesting.
Mine is boring.
The lesson? Add at least one sensory word to your author bio.
Using Sensory Words in Social Media Profiles
Some people opt for brevity when writing their social media profiles, and thatâs fine.
But if you want your Twitter profile (or Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media profile) to stand out from the crowd, sprinkle in a sensory word or two.
Mel Wicks is a veteran copywriter who knows a thing or two about the effectiveness of descriptive words, so she uses them to spice up her Twitter profile.
Hereâs an example from my badly-neglected Instagram account:
âEnchantingâ and âadorably-jubilantâ are wonderful sensory words â so wonderful, itâs a shame theyâre wasted on a profile no one sees.
Look at your own profiles and see if thereâs a place to add a sensory word or two. Theyâll help your profile jump off the screen.
Heck, see if you can use enchanting and adorably-jubilant.
They deserve to be seen.
Using Sensory Words in Introductions
The opening lines of your content are so important.
If youâre a student, your opening sets the tone for your teacher (who we both know is dying to use his red pen).
If youâre an author, your opening can be the difference between someone buying your book or putting it back on the shelf in favor of one of those Twilight books (probably).
And if youâre a blogger, writer, content marketer, or business; your opening can hook the reader (increasing dwell time, which is great in Googleâs eyes) or send them scurrying for the âbackâ button.
Itâs why we put such an emphasis on introductions here at Smart Blogger.
Sometimes our openings hook you with a question.
Sometimes we strike a note of empathy or (like this post) focus on searcher intent.
And sometimes we give you a heaping helping of sensory words:
In the above opening for How to Become a Freelance Writer and Get Paid $200 â $1K per Post, Jon Morrow uses sensory language to set a scene for the reader.
And itâs highly, highly effective.
Using Sensory Words in Email Subject Lines
Like you, your readers are flooded with emails.
And with open rates in a steady decline, people are trying anything and everything to make their email subject lines stand out:
You name it, people are trying it.
Want a simpler, far-more-effective way to help your emails stand out from the crowd?
Add a sensory word.
Brian Dean loves to include words like âboomâ in his subjects:
The folks at AppSumo and Sumo (formerly SumoMe) regularly feature descriptive words in their subjects and headlines.
Hereâs one example:
And sensory language appears in most everything Henneke writes, including her subject lines.
In this one she also uses an emoji related to her sensory word. Very clever:
Now that weâve covered several examples, letâs dig a bit deeperâ¦
Letâs discuss some practical steps you can take that will make adding sensory language to your writing a breeze:
How Descriptive Words Can Pack Your Writing With Sensory Language
If youâve taken a good English or writing class, youâve probably been told a time or two to âshow, donât tell.â
This means you should create an engaging experience for your audience; not just tell them what you want them to know.
You accomplish this by using descriptive language that conveys sensations and lets readers experience your words (rather than simply read them).
And how do you do that, exactly?
Ask yourself these five questions when youâre writing:
#1. What Do You See?
It isnât enough to tell your readers there was a scary house in your neighborhood when you were a child. Describe the house to them in vivid detail.
What shade of gray was it?
Were the doors boarded up?
Precisely how many ghostly figures did you see staring at you from the upstairs bedroom windows, and how many are standing behind you right now?
Paint a mental picture for your readers.
#2. What Do You Hear?
We listen to uptempo songs to push us through cardio workouts. Many of us listen to rainfall when weâre trying to sleep. Some of us listen to Justin Bieber when we want to punish our neighbors.
Want to transplant readers into your literary world?
Talk about the drip, drip, drip of the faucet.
Mention the squeaking floors beneath your feet.
Describe the awful music coming from your next-door-neighborâs house.
#3. How Does it Feel?
Touch sensory words can convey both tactile and emotional sensations.
Can you describe to the reader how something feels when touched? Is it smooth or rough? Round or flat? Is it covered in goo or is it goo-less?
Paint a picture for your reader so they can touch what youâre touching.
The same goes for emotions. Help the reader feel what you (or your character) are feeling. Draw them in.
#4. What Does it Taste Like?
Does the beach air taste salty? Is the roaring fire so intense you can taste the smoke? Is the smell of your roommateâs tuna fish sandwich so strong you can taste it from across the room?
Tell your audience.
Make them taste the fishiness.
#5. How Does it Smell?
It wasnât a basement you walked into â it was a musty, moldy basement.
And you didnât simply enjoy your Momâs homemade lasagna. You inhaled the aromatic scents of sauce, cheese, and basil.
Evoking the sense of smell is possibly the most effective way to pull readers out of their world and into yours.
So when you sit down to write, ask yourself if itâs possible to describe how something smells. And if you can? Do it.
The Massive Sensory Words List: 581 (and Counting) Descriptive Words to Supercharge Your Writing
Once youâve asked and answered the five questions above, your writing will be packed with sensory details.
In time, youâll build up your own massive list of sensory words you can reference and sprinkle throughout your work.
But in the meantime, hereâs my list.
Use them often:
Are You Ready to Unleash the Power of Sensory Words?
Itâs time to say goodbye.
Goodbye to lifeless words that sit on the page.
Goodbye to indifferent readers ready to move on to something, anything, else.
You now know why sensory details are so effective. You know how to sprinkle descriptive words throughout your content. And you now have a massive, ever-growing list of sensory words to bookmark and come back to again and again.
Variations of the following quote have been attributed to everyone from Carl W. Buehner to Maya Angelou, but regardless of who said it, and how they said it, itâs true:
Itâs time to make your readers feel.
Are you ready?
Then letâs do this thing.
The post 581 Sensory Words to Take Your Writing from Bland to Brilliant appeared first on Smart Blogger.