Using Sensory Descriptions in Writing

The bespectacled man sauntered into the classroom. With his sleek hair glistening in the light and his shirt neatly tucked in at the waist, the teacher looked immaculate. With a bright smile on his face, he chirped boldly, “Welcome back, everyone! I am Mr Joel, an English teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. Let’s begin with class, shall we?”


Were you able to picture this scene clearly in your mind? I’m sure the descriptions of the teacher helped you get a clearer picture of what he looked like, and how he behaved.

This blog post will explore how we can use sensory descriptions in our writing to ensure that readers get a better and clearer picture of what we are trying to depict. You have seen how such descriptions can be applied to a character. Let’s move on to see how they can be applied to things and places in a story in the upcoming examples too.

What are the 5 senses?

Firstly, let’s explore what the 5 senses are. The 5 senses, sense of sight, sense of hearing, sense of smell, sense of touch and sense of taste, are what we use to perceive the things around us.

Basically, we understand the world around us based on what we see, hear, smell, touch and taste. This is an experience that is shared by everyone all around the world. For example, we know not to touch a boiling kettle because it is hot. We also know what the sound of birds chirping is like, because we have all heard it at some point in our lives.

Therefore, since what we perceive using the 5 senses is a common experience, using the 5-senses description is an effective way to allow readers to understand just what we are trying to say in our story. In order to help readers cl earl y understand wh at we are trying to describe, we can make use of this shared experience. For example, if we want our readers to understand just how delicious a piece of dessert is in our story, we can describe it using our sense of taste:


After reading that short passage, can you almost taste the cake in your mouth? That’s exactly the sensory experience that we want to convey to our readers!

How can we use the 5 senses in our stories?

In order to effectively use the 5 senses in our stories, we should try to imagine what it would be like if we were actually in our stories.

Is your character walking through a dimly-lit alley on a cold Friday night? Imagine what it would be like if you were the one walking through that alley. What would you see? What sounds would you hear? Keeping the 5 senses in mind, we might describe the experience like this:

If we look at the example above, can we identify all the sensory descriptions used?

We have used our

  1. sense of sight : ‘dimly-lit alley’ and ‘rubbish strewn all over’
  2. sense of touch : ‘sent chills down my spine’
  3. sense of hearing : ‘hear mice squeaking’
  4. sense of smell : ‘overwhelming stench that lingered in the air’

Such a vivid description will definitely help your readers to picture the alley clearly in their minds! Not only that, it also helps to evoke the fear that the main character is feeling as he/she walks through the alley.

A Gentle Reminder

Even though it is advisable to use sensory descriptions in our writing, we do not recommend students to use all 5 senses, all the time. That would be a little excessive!

Let’s look at this example:

Phew! That was quite a lot to read, wasn’t it? That’s because we used all 5 senses to describe the forest! However, not all 5 senses are the most relevant to use in this setting.

Which sense(s) do you think we could have removed? Perhaps we could consider removing sense of touch and sense of taste! This is because for such a setting, it is more logical to focus on what we can see, hear and smell in our surroundings.

Furthermore, to make the description even better, do consider replacing simple phrases like ‘I could see’, ‘I could hear’ with better synonyms or by describing the 5 senses directly. Take a look at the amended paragraph below to see what I mean. The parts in bold are the changes that have been made:

Isn’t that much better? Remember that you do not need to use all 5 senses in your description. Be sure to use the senses that best help to describe each setting!

Final Note

I hope that you have seen how you can add sensory descriptions in your writing so as to be able to depict the scenes in the stories vividly for the readers. If in doubt, follow these guidelines:

  1. Put yourself in your character’s shoes and try to imagine what they are experiencing through their 5 senses
  2. Try to use at most 3 sensory descriptions (do not overdo it!)
  3. Use the most appropriate sensory descriptions to describe each

situation. For example, if you are writing about eating a meal, you should definitely include sense of taste. Similarly, if you are describing a scene at a concert, one of the senses you need to include would definitely be sense of hearing.

Happy writing! Till the next time!



  1. have an overly simple problem with only one main character

  2. do not have an introduction or build-up that is relevant to the problem

  3. have events that happen too suddenly without a build-up

  4. lack depth e.g.
    A boy went to the pool to swim and fell down
    A boy went to the pool to practise for a competition. He fell down because he was chasing after his rival who snatched his goggles. Hence, he was unable to take part in the competition.

  5. tend to be filled with gaps that leave readers baffled

  6. lack a problem/ conflict or have a problem that does not have depth

  7. lack a plan or have an overly simplified plan which does not help with the flow of the story


As a teacher, Mr. Joel believes in nurturing independent learners. He hopes to be able to impart his love for English and particularly, writing, to his students by ensuring that the classroom is a safe space where students can come to learn. Learning should be fun and enjoyable! With that in mind, Mr. Joel believes that every student can excel, and he looks forward to helping his students achieve their best in his classes!

Have something to share? Drop us a comment below!

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