We’re wired to respond to stories. We remember things that have an emotional impact. Think about it. If we see an emotionally-charged story on the news, we can remember it for weeks – or even months.

The same idea applies when writing your book.

When you write your book, there’s a nonfiction tool you can use to connect with readers. It makes an emotional impact so they’ll better remember what you wrote.

What is this tool? Well, it’s not so complicated – it’s sensory language. It brings readers in close and makes them feel like they’re in the room with you.

How to Use Sensory Language

Sensory language is exactly what it sounds like – the language of the five senses. When used, it can describe what you saw, felt, heard, tasted, and smelled. So instead of writing:

“I was sad when my girlfriend broke up with me.”

You can write:

“When she told me she was leaving, she smiled as she whispered the words, ‘I’m leaving you.’ My throat clamped tight. I blinked hard, so I wouldn’t cry, but one hot tear fell and salted my upper lip.”

This passage showcases four of the five senses:

She told me & she whispered – Hearing
… throat clamped tight & hot tear – Feeling
… she smiled – Sight
… salted my upper lip – Taste

Sensory language helps punch up your writing to better engage readers. It breaks up the monotony and allows the reader to visualize and experience the scene.

Sensory Language Example: Before & After

Look at the two passages below, and see how sensory language changes them.

1. Becky called me and said that something terrible had just happened. She wanted to talk about it, so I asked her to meet me at the grill on the ground floor of my building. It was almost noon, and I was hungry, so I asked her if she wanted something to eat.

Compare that to:

2. “The police just barged in my house,” Becky said. “It was raining, and their boots tracked bits of grass and mud all over my white carpet. Didn’t even bother to wipe their feet. It’s like they used my carpet as a door mat. There were six of them.”

A piece of red hair – I Love Lucy red hair – escaped from behind her ear, and she slicked it back without taking a breath. My watch beeped twelve o’clock, but she yammered on. The grilling onions made my stomach lurch. I hadn’t eaten breakfast.

“Wow,” I said. “I’m so sorry. Can I get you something to eat? I could use a bite myself, and maybe that would make you feel better.”

Her head banged down on the table, and she hiccuped massive sobs. “What do you think I am, a twelve-year-old?” she sputtered. “It’s not like a snack can make me all better!”
Sensory language is easy to incorporate. Describe what you hear, what you smell, what you see, what you feel, and what you taste. Dropping these elements into a scene can bring your writing to life.

What are Some Sensory Words?

Looking for some examples of good sensory words? Then this section is perfect for you.

What You See

These are the types of words you can use to describe the appearance of things in your story:


What You Hear

With this category, you can bring the sound of your scene to life:

What You Feel

With these types of sensory words, you can describe the texture of an object or the emotion of the scene:


What You Taste

Does your story feature a memorable meal? Use words like these to illustrate the tastes:


What You Smell

If you’re looking to bring the smell of the scene to life, check out some of these words:


What about you? Are you ready to put sensory language to work? If you or someone you know has always wanted to write a book, reach out to us, and we can help make it happen!