Mastering Descriptive Language: How to Create Powerful Content

If you’ve ever stayed awake until 2 a.m. to finish an enthralling book, or purchased a product immediately after reading a compelling testimonial, then you understand the power of descriptive language.

Contrary to popular belief, it takes more than a good story to keep people hooked on your content. If you want to capture and hold a reader’s attention, you have to activate their imagination. By vividly describing people, places, and events, you can help your readers participate in the experience. This establishes an emotional connection, makes content more memorable, and keeps audiences coming back for more.

Here are three descriptive writing tips to help make your blog posts as compelling as possible.

1. Focus on the human experience

Whether you’re a traveler recounting your latest adventures or a business owner marketing a product, all bloggers are writing for other humans. Like you, your writers experience challenges and opportunities, moments of frustration, and bouts of unbridled joy.

“Prose is a window onto the world,” says Harvard Linguist Steven Pinker, according to an article in Inc. “Let your readers see what you are seeing by using visual, concrete language.”

But instead of simply listing the sights from your last trip or various features of your product, delve into the human experience and place those feelings at the epicenter of your story. For example, imagine you run a local housekeeping service, and you’re composing a blog post about tasks people can outsource to simplify their lives. One of these suggestions is, of course, hiring a trusted housekeeper.

Here’s an example of how you’d use descriptive language in this scenario:

After enduring a long, grueling day of work and bumper-to-bumper afternoon traffic, you finally pull into your driveway. Exhausted, you begin imagining all the ways you’ll unwind: a hot bath, a glass of wine, and an evening spent bingeing your favorite Netflix series. Unfortunately, the moment you open your door, you’re greeted by mounds of laundry, stacks of dirty dishes, and carpet obscured by a thick layer of pet hair. There’s no way you’ll have time to relax.

Luckily, there’s a solution.

2. Use sensory words

Sensory language isn’t just for poets and novelists. Along with adding aesthetically pleasing images in your blog posts, invoking readers’ senses via the written word is one of the best ways to captivate and maintain your readers’ attention. It also helps them feel like they’re actively experiencing what they’re reading.

Here are several examples of sensory words for each of the five senses:

  • Sight: Dark, dingy, gloomy, bright, dazzling, shimmering, twinkling

  • Touch: Smooth, scratchy, frigid, scalding, fuzzy, rocky, slick

  • Sound: Screeching, buzzing, chirping, clinking, growling, jangling, thumping

  • Taste: Bitter, sweet, buttery, zesty, spicy, tart, crispy

  • Smell: Musty, foul, floral, piney, smokey, acrid

3. Include anecdotes, similes, and metaphors

One of the best ways to help readers understand and remember crucial points in your content is to use an anecdote, a simile, or a metaphor.

An anecdote is a short and entertaining narrative about a real incident. The story can be inspirational, humorous, cautionary, or philosophical — but most importantly, it should be useful and relevant. For example, a fashion blogger sharing rainy day attire might provide an anecdote about a time she forgot her raincoat, got caught in a downpour, and ruined her favorite silk blouse.

A simile compares two things, typically using the words “like” or “as.” For example, “It’s as dry as a desert.” And a metaphor refers to something as something else, usually for clarification or exaggeration. For example, “The baby’s laughter was music to her parents’ ears.” These language tricks are more likely to get your readers’ attention and engage them in the story you are trying to tell.

Although it may take a little extra time to craft content with descriptive language, the increased engagement will be well worth your effort.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie Dagenhard

Carrie is an old school, gumshoe journalist trapped in a modern content marketer's body. She specializes in writing for the marketing, technology and healthcare industries, and loves helping bloggers and small business owners grow their presence online. Carrie resides in the "Silicon Hills" of Austin, TX with her husband and two adorable cats.

More by Carrie Dagenhard