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Sensory Language


Techniques > Use of language > Persuasive Language > Sensory Language

Sense and non-sense | Senses in language | Sense preferences | The power of sensory language | See also


Sense and non-sense

When talking or writing, it is possible to make use of our five senses. It is also possible to exclude the senses from the what is said, leading to a more objective way of speaking.

Sensory language references and stimulates the senses, thus:

The cool morning sun cast long fingers of shadow and light across the green field as our visitors tramped across rough and the dewy grass.

Objective language seeks to engage the logical mind, but not the senses, which are considered too emotional. It is thus common in such as legal, scientific and business writing.

Morning came and the people arrived.

Senses in language

Language can make reference to any or all senses by deliberate use of appropriate sensory words. Note that these can be both direct description and also sensory metaphors.


The visual sense is referenced by talking about light and dark, shades and hues, visible shape and appearance.

Her brilliant red blouse fitted her slim figure like a glove.


Auditory senses are triggered by reference to loudness, timbre, actual words spoken, and so on.

He shouted harsh approval at the sound of her pure warbling Italian soprano.


Tactile feeling and emotional feeling are closely connected, as we sense our emotions as tensions and other physical bodily experiences.

His heart thumped as he grasped the meaning of her smile.

Taste and smell

Our gustatory senses are closely linked and are often used in the metaphoric sense.

She could stomach his words no longer and smelled a bitter rat in his intent.

Smell in particularly is powerfully evocative sense and can easily trigger early memories.

Sense preferences

Whilst we can detect five senses, we tend to have a preference for some rather than others. Whilst some of us might be evenly balanced, many of us have a significant preference for visual or auditory information.

Sense preferences can be detected in the language that people use. If I am a 'pictures person' then I will use more visual words, including visual metaphor. On the other hand, if I pay particular attention to sounds, then I might use more sound-base metaphors. Likewise I might use tactile language.

The power of sensory language

The power of stimulation

Sense language is more powerful at engaging others simply because it triggers our senses rather than requiring the cognitive effort that more abstract or objective talk needs.

If you paint pictures, sounds and sensations with words, you will immediately gain attention and greater understanding, and hence be better able to communicate effectively and persuade others to your cause.

Reflecting the sense preference

As with any communication, if you reflect back to a person those things that they prefer, then they will pay even more attention to these things than others.

Using their preferred sense channel will also make you appear to be more like them and hence create a bond with them and consequently gain their trust.

See also

Sensory metaphors, Bonding principle


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