Writing with vivid sensory language can make average writing extraordinary. But in order to fill out a descriptive paragraph, you need great options to describe each sense. Read on for examples of strong sensory words that can enhance your writing.
Sensory language allows a reader to feel like they are right there in a scene. The smell of grass, for example, is less effective than a sentence that includes the earthy smell of fresh-cut grass. Keep reading for lists of words that heighten all five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.
Get past ugly and beautiful when describing what a character sees. You might also consider words that express the opposite of sight such as dark words. If you need more choices for sensory language that describes the appearance of things, there are lots of wonderful words in the English language. For example:
Beautiful Sight Words
Unattractive Sight Words
Many of these words depend on the item you are describing. Words like filthy and misshapen are excellent ways to describe both an unlikeable person and a lumpy couch. However, while words like flashy and gaudy have negative connotations, they might not present the same undesirable picture.
Finding the right sensory word to describe a sound can be tricky. It depends on whether the sound is quiet or loud and how the reader should react upon “hearing” it. Check out these words, grouped by volume, that work as strong descriptors for your literary noises.
Quiet Hearing Words
Loud Hearing Words
Determining whether these hearing words are positive or negative depends on the story context. Whispering sweet nothings to each other might set a romantic tone, but hearing a whispering voice through your walls sets the tone for a horror story.
Would you rather sleep on a fluffy, fleecy pillow or an abrasive, scratchy one? Choosing the right touch sensory words can make a reader feel very comfortable – or, if you’d rather, very uncomfortable. Try swapping out boring words for these descriptors:
Pleasant Touch Words
Unpleasant Touch Words
Watch out for the word moist on this list. It may be the perfect word to describe a kitchen sponge or a mist-covered umbrella, but many readers have a strong aversion to the word. It’s best used in unpleasant situations!
Smell and taste are separate senses. However, you’ll often find that adjectives that work with taste can also describe a smell. Use these sensory words to describe a flavorful, aromatic meal or a sharp, pungent smell.
Delicious Taste Words
Disgusting Taste Words
Like everything in life, word choice depends on your taste. A gingery smell coming from the neighbor’s apartment might remind one character of their mother’s cooking. However, a ginger-averse roommate might prefer a spicy or fruity aroma instead.
Now that you’ve read through these sensory words, you may notice the vivid descriptions in the next book you read. But defining imagery is not as simple as it seems! Read an article about the five different types of imagery that you’re likely to find in literature.