I signed up for another class at The Writer’s Center and, as usual, it’s forcing me to be more disciplined in my writing.

improve your writing

Many of the writing tips are now familiar to me (after taking a bunch of classes there), but it’s great to be reminded of some of the standard rules. One rule in particular has been helping improve my writing—use all five senses in your writing.

3 Ways Senses Can Improve Your Writing

I’ve been thinking about it all week, which made me think that Write Practice readers might appreciate a reminder about this rule as well.

Here are some of the ways using all five senses can enhance your descriptive writing:

1. Senses add emotion

Using all five senses in a scene is a great way to add emotion because, among other things, it shows the character’s heightened presence in the moment.

When you first fall in love, isn’t it true that the colors are brighter and each touch is electrifying?  What about when you return to a place from your childhood—can’t a simple smell make you teary eyed?

Use that.  

2. Senses help transport readers

One classmate, in particular, inspired me to write this post.

In ten minutes, she wrote a beautiful scene about running in the bitter cold in D.C.  She used these images of frigidity, darkness, and isolation to also tell a story about how lonely city life can be at times.  I could not only envision the city streets, but I was transported into the moment she described.  I could feel the cold, hear my footsteps, etc. I was honestly thinking about it for days.

And the teacher pointed out that the scene was so effective, in part, because she used all of the senses.

I mean, isn’t this one of the reasons many of us love to read?  Because we get to experience places and times that may otherwise be unavailable to us?

Effective description of the senses can help you do that for your reader—transport her to your character’s world.

3. Senses allow you to create art

Call me biased, but I think writing is a special form of art.  Painters can only appeal to your eyes.  Musicians—ears.  They are limited.

But as a writer, you have the unique privilege to reach all five of your readers’ senses.  It’s a challenge, but when it’s done well, I don’t think there’s any other way to describe the outcome other than art.

Use the senses to create your art.

Do you have a favorite piece of writing that stimulates your senses? Let us know in the comments below.


Think of a memorable place.  Take fifteen minutes to describe it, using all five senses.  Share in the comments section.



Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

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