What Is It?
Though we may not have used the term before, we are in fact all familiar with and have read and mostly likely written using them hundreds if not thousands of times.
Sensing words are words that describe a sensation; taste words, smell words, sight words, etcetera. Words related directly to a sensation, the use of which will allow to reader to better picture what you're trying to convey, to have a specific and tailored vision more closely related to the scenario or sensation you wish to convey than ordinary words could achieve.
Sensing words can be used to spice up boring business blogs, email subject lines, or any web page. The key here is they shouldn't be confined only to literature and poetry; the more a copywriter can employ compelling, immediate and even occasionally abstract words in copy that would usually be dry and boring, the more likely they are to catch the attention of what might otherwise be an uninterested scan-reader.
What Does It Look Like In Action?
So we've described what sensing words are, but nothing beats actually seeing something in action to increase your understanding of what it is and how it functions.
Starting off with a simple sentence, not related to marketing or content creation first. Here is a sentence utilizing sensing words:
You look well! You're radiant, you're positively glowing!
Contrast that to this, without the use of sensing words:
You look well! You look very good and...very well indeed.
Do you see? The point we are trying to get at here is, without the use of sensory words, your ability to describe, to be specific, and to highlight any specific aspects of a thing is drastically limited. Non-sensory language condemns the writer to generic, plain language, and the reader will feel as though no effort was made to understand the audience.
Here is an example of sensory words in use in a business setting:
10 Chefs Tips To Help Your Cooking Tantalize And Make Mouths Water!
10 Chefs Tips To Help Improve Your Cooking
Both headlines say, more or less, the same thing. However sensory words allow for a more specific, sculpted message promising a certain result that is identifiably positive. Whereas without sensing words, it seems as though the list is going to be the most generic, basic tips the reader has probably already read before.
When To Use Sensory Writing
There is no wrong time to use sensory writing. Of course, the extent to which it should be used exists on a spectrum that should be judged on a case-by-case basis. As a rule, the more formal the situation, the more sparingly it should be employed. In a formal scenario, a sensory word should be used only when essential to sell the importance of a particular point.
In a less formal situation however, such as a blog post, sensory details can be used with far more freedom. Sensory language forms the building block of any description, and so describing sensory details when, for example, selling a holiday, food, or an experience, is essential.
Likewise, if sensory details are essential in product description. If you were selling a car, it would not be enough simply to describe the cold facts; the engine size, the miles-per-gallon. Potential consumers want to get a sense of the visceral experience of interacting with the product on a personal level; the minimalist, streamlined sleek of the exterior, the luxurious decadence and comfort of the inside.
Without sensory words, from touch words to more abstract sensory words; for example, decadence and luxury are not tangible things, but abstractions informed by cultural perceptions.
How To Develop Your Sensory Word Skills
There is no single way to develop your ability to compellingly employ sensory words. As with most things, experience is the greatest teacher. Experience in reading, experience writing, is essential. Never switch off your writer's sensibility; take note of what it is that compels you to engage as a consumer. When you are reading fiction, take note of the language that grabs your attention. It can likely be repurposed in myriad different circumstances.
Play word games; make a list of words related to one another, explore the semantic fields of abstract words to allow you to approach subjects with a wide and varied vocabulary; this can prevent your writing becoming repetitious and tedious.
Different Kinds of Sensory Words
Now let's explore different kinds of sensory words and how to employ them in your writing. This will enable you to deepen your understanding of your own vocabulary, as well as allowing you to incorporate phrases from other languages that encapsulate sensations that would require a more clunky explanation in English; in short, we will examine how to give your writing a je nais c'est quoi!
Touch words are invaluable when describing the experience of interacting with a tangible product, though not necessarily as useful when describing an experience, such as going on holiday, for example.
Imagine stroking the soft velvet of a new sofa, or the smoothness of skin after moisturizer. The stickiness of a rich toffee pudding. You get the picture; touch words describe the tactile experience of interacting with something
We touched on the tactility in the experience of eating a sticky toffee pudding; the next logical step is of course to describe the taste, the sweetness of saltiness; the sourness, or the umami. Play word games to avoid your writing becoming predictable and stale; make a list of homonyms or synonyms, to prevent you from repeating yourself. Explore words that describe a specific sensation, such as umami, one of the five basic taste profiles described in Japanese cooking, a term that has increasingly made its way to the west.
Love words are sensory words that describe emotions towards something, be it a product or an experience; you might adore it, revere it, cherish it. You might feel affection, devotion, and adulation. Do not fall into the trap of using only the word love to describe emotions towards things; it is too generic, too catch-all. Again, engage in word games, play with language, try to take an alternative approach to your descriptions that another writer might not, and ensure you are engaging with the full scope of your vocabulary.
Sight sensory words, as you can imagine, describe the what is experienced by the sense of sight. Simple enough, right? To employ them effectively in a writing context, however, it is important not to take sight for granted. That may sound silly, but we use our eyes every day yet very rarely stop to admire the details, the intricacies of what our eyes take in.
To effectively use these particular sensory words, mindfulness is an extremely useful tool. Focus on the thing you are trying to describe and do your best to examine it, and only it. Take in the curves, the way the light interacts with it. Then play some word games; write down what it reminds you of, comparisons, however concrete or abstract. You are a writer; a writer is an artist, however practical and business-like their writing is. Think like an artist!
Putting It All Together
So, all of this knowledge is useless to a writer is they do not know how to join the dots of their vocabulary, making connections between words related to one another, or drawing links between words where there doesn't seem to be any.
Think about the experience of engaging with, for example, food. You are served a gourmet meal; do not just jump into describing how it tastes. Break down the experience. Ultimately, you are likely describing the experience to a prospective consumer of that thing who does not have the product- in this example, food- right in front of them.
So break down the experience of actually consuming it in stages, provide as many and as evocative details as you can to allow the reader to live it. The food is brought to the table, first they see it, they eat with their eyes. Describe it; is it hearty, rich, succulent food that will leave the consumer satiated and satisfied? Or is it elegant, minimalist cuisine, artfully styled? Then they may smell it. What does it smell of, and what does that smell do? Create the sensation you of enticement in the reader they would be feeling were they consuming it.
Explore the full breadth of your vocabulary, stringing together touch words to describe the texture of the food, smell words, love words to describe how the experience will make the consumer feel. The true magic of having a vocabulary of effective sensory words is in making them interact with one another to form a cohesive whole; to fire on all cylinders, as it were.
The tools provided cannot be used simply in isolation; phrases isolated from one another, one at a time. A decadent, luxurious, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate cake for example. This description combines abstract words with the concrete experience of the cake melting in the mouth, a combination of sensory words making up a cohesive and compelling whole that accurately describes the sensations experienced by engaging with the subject matter.
Never Rest On Your Laurels!
Essential across any form of writing, be it from the simple subject line, or social media post, to a highly-technical, well-researched and informed article for industry insiders, is to never rest on your laurels. Remember that you are always the worst writer you will ever be! Allow your development to this day inform how you approach what you do, but never allow the development to stop. You can always improve.