Sensory Language

Sensory language is the use of details from the five senses to add color and depth to writing. It helps readers visualize the scene a writer is setting.

Sight

Example 1

From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

[Mrs. Flowers’] skin was a rich black that would have peeled like a plum if snagged, but then no one would have thought of getting close enough to Mrs. Flowers to ruffle her dress, let alone snag her skin.

Example 2

From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

I looked around the room that I had never in my wildest fantasies imagined I would see. Browned photographs leered or threatened from the walls and the white, freshly done curtains pushed against themselves and against the wind.

Example 3

From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

They were flat round wafers, slightly browned on the edges and butter-yellow in the center

Sound

Example 1

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From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

“It was the best of times and the worst of times . . .” [Mrs. Flowers’] voice slid in and curved down through and over the words. She was nearly singing. I wanted to look at the pages. Were they the same that I had read? Or were there notes, music, lined on the pages, as in a hymn book? Her sounds began cascading gently. I knew from listening to a thousand preachers that she was nearing the end of her reading, and I hadn’t really heard, heard to understand, a single word.

Smell

Example 1

From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

The odors in the house surprised me. Somehow I had never connected Mrs. Flowers with food or eating or any other common experience of common people. […] The sweet scent of vanilla had met us as she opened the door.

Taste

Example 1

From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

The sweet vanilla flavor was still on my tongue and [Mrs. Flowers’] reading was a wonder in my ears. I had to speak.

Touch

Example 1

From Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

I jammed one whole cake in my mouth and the rough crumbs scratched the insides of my jaws, and if I hadn’t had to swallow, it would have been a dream come true.

This page was last modified on September 10, 2009.