Posts Tagged ‘language’


I always seem to be preaching about using vivid words and keeping in mind the five senses when you are preparing a speech or writing a story. I got my come-uppance last week when I did a speech – which was, in effect, a complete story – and asked an experienced speaker to evaluate it. Naturally he said a number of kind things about the story, but his tip for improvement was “Use the five senses more”.

Ouch. Hoist by my own petard.

Once my pride had healed I wrote on top of my hard copy a list of the five senses. Sight. Hearing. Taste. Touch. Smell. I wrote them in capital letters and in red. Then I went through the story, carefully building in sensory words. It went something like this, with my additions in capitals:

– In the cramped back street of a crowded industrial city she BREATHED IN THE METALLIC SMOG.

– He made CHEESE sandwiches

– The family of ducks QUACKED in the canal

– She wore her new NAVY BLUE skirt

– The train, PACKED WITH A LOAD OF young soldiers WAVING AND SINGING

– …a garden where the baby could play ON THE SOFT GRASS

– Her mother GRABBED HER HANDBAG and hurried over…

By my count I have at least one example of each sense in this list. You’ll notice that as much as possible I avoid straight adjectives, ‘navy blue’ and ‘soft’ being the exceptions. Each small addition adds to the strength of the story, making it more real for the listener.

Next time I’ll try to take my own advice before someone else has to tell me.

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