It’s important to use all five senses in your writing. Every writer has a tendency to favor one or two of their senses over the others, and this affects the way that he or she experiences the world, processes information and makes memories. This means that we tend to describe characters, settings or actions using words related to our own favored senses. Writing that skews too far toward one sense over the others will resonate more with readers who favor the same sense and less so with those who do not.
The term “NLP predicate” refers to those words (primarily verbs, adverbs and adjectives) associated with the specific senses. There are thousands of words associated with each but some examples are included, below:
How to Experience an Explosion
We created the following example for a guest post on DIY Author in 2015. Imagine a fictional situation that can be described using different predicates to resonate with different senses.
The blast from the explosion was blinding. Jane searched the sky and saw a plume of smoke rising from her ofﬁce.
The heat from the explosion hit Jane like a bus. Her legs felt riddled with bullets as she struggled along the rough brick wall toward her ofﬁce.
The explosion was deafening. Sirens immediately began to wail as Jane struggled to her feet, her ears drumming like machine gun ﬁre.
The explosion ﬁlled the street with an acrid cloud of noxious smoke. Jane choked on the fumes as she pulled her sweater up over her burning nostrils.
The explosion ﬁlled the street with an acidic cloud of toxic smoke. With the taste of charcoal burning her tongue, Jane struggled toward her ofﬁce.
Now check out this example where more than one sense is used together:
- The heat from the explosion hit Jane like a bus. Sirens began to wail and a plume of smoke rose from her ofﬁce. With the taste of charcoal burning her tongue and her ears drumming like machine gun ﬁre, Jane thought of the ﬁles on her desk and knew that she needed to go back.
The reader experiences the explosion in a much more vivid way when several of her senses are ignited.
When you are writing for a broad audience, you should try to use words associated with all of the senses. It will help emotionally engage with the widest range of people.
Run your writing through ProWritingAid’s NLP Predicates Report and make sure that you have all five senses covered.
This and other great tips for using ProWritingAid are included in our ebook: 20 Editing Tips From Professional Writers. Download it for free now!