The phrase painting pictures with words is often used to describe vivid imagery. But the strongest imagery is not only visual; it often appeals to two or three different senses.
Sensory words are more powerful and memorable than ordinary words because they make your reader see, hear, smell, taste, or feel your words.
How to paint pictures using the 6 senses
We commonly talk about 5 senses:
- Sight: How does something look, including colour, shape, or appearance
- Sound: What or who is making what kind of sound, and how loud or soft is it
- Touch: How does it feel when we touch something, including its texture, temperature, humidity, or even air pressure
- Smell: What kind of aroma is it—is it natural or artificial, strong or subtle, pleasant or repulsive, and what does it remind you of
- Taste: Whether something is sweet, sour, savoury, salty, or bitter, or whether it tastes like a specific kind of fruit, vegetable, spice, etc.
On top of that, you can use motion as a 6th sense. When we use strong verbs to describe motion, readers experience the motion as if they’re there, too. You can feel the car swerving. You can sense the dancers graciously floating across the dance floor.
What are sensory words?
Sensory words are descriptive—they describe how we experience the world: how we smell, see, hear, feel or taste something.
- Words related to sight indicate colours, shape, or appearance. For instance: gloomy, dazzling, bright, foggy, gigantic.
- Words related to touch describe textures. You can use them to describe feelings and abstract concepts, too: gritty, creepy, slimy, fluff, sticky.
- Words related to hearing describe sounds. For instance: crashing, thumping, piercing, tingling, squeaky. Often these words mimic sounds—that is when they are called onomatopoeic.
- Taste and smell are closely related. Most taste and smell words are easy substitutes for bland words like good, nice, or bad. For instance: zesty, tantalizing, sweet, stinky, stale.
- Motion is sensory, too. By using active words or describing movement, you help your readers experience your words. For instance: vibrating, soaring, mind-boggling, staggering, bumpy.
A list of sensory phrases
Sensory power words #1: Visual words
Sensory power words #2: Tactile words
- To stifle
Sensory power words #3: Auditory words
- To sizzle
- To hiss
- To shriek
Sensory power words #4: Words related to taste and smell
Sensory power words #5: Motion words
- To resonate
- To breeze through
- Blown away
- To grab
- Jaw-droppingly good
- To wriggle
Original author / source: Henneke, Enchanting Marketing