February 4, 2015 Using language to ensnare the senses and engage your reader

By Alexandra Hallam

eye, ear, tongue, nose and hand

Look. Have you heard about using sensory language to engage your audience? It’s a delicious trick that tickles readers’ imaginations – there’s nothing stinky about it.

Okay, so maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch, but you get the point. Using language that evokes the senses gets your reader to relate your words to feelings and situations they are familiar with.

The more familiar your reader feels with what you’re saying, the more likely they are to be receptive of your message.

Use sensory imagery

Sensory imagery is an effective way to catch readers’ attention. To build sensory imagery, you need to create an idea of how your subject will arouse your audience’s senses. If we were writing about a restaurant, for example:

  • The restaurant is sight for design-lovers’ eyes. Warmly lit, it features brightly coloured modern furniture
  • The restaurant buzzes with atmosphere. The tunes of the live band are accompanied by the easy laughter of the diners and happy shouts of ‘Order’s up!’ from the kitchen
  • Feel right at home at the heavy wooden tables and comfortable hard-leather chairs. Heavy silverware and delicate glasses add a luxurious touch
  • The smell of gourmet food will meet you at the door; zesty, fragrant spices will tickle your nose and treat you to the aromatic courses that await you
  • Each bite is mouth-watering. Spicy, sour, salty, sweet – there’s something for everyone’s tastes.

Use sensory words

Using sensory words without the context of imagery is a more subtle way of engaging your audience.

You can do this by including words that are related to the senses, but removing their literal context. These are words and phrases like:

  • you’ve got to see this, our vision is…, keep sight of…, see how…
  • listen out for…, have you heard…
  • feel, out of touch, bumpy, slimy
  • so close you can almost taste it, delicious, sweeten the deal
  • I smell a rat, follow your nose, burn rubber.

Extra senses

We’re all familiar with our basic senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, the ability to see dead people. But we do also rely on more senses than those: we have a sense of time, a sense of someone’s proximity to us, a sense of where are limbs are at any given point, and so on.

Evoking these senses in imagery can be just as effective:

  • With our product, you’ll feel like you have more hours in your day.
  • Have that prickling feeling at the back of your neck? That nagging weight in the pit of your stomach?
  • We’ll offer support while you find your feet.

Need some tasty copy? The Avion team is here to listen to your needs! Get in touch today. (See what I did there?)

(Photo credit: Allan-Herman Pool)