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How Do I Recognize Sentences with Imagery?

B. Miller
B. Miller

With a little practice, recognizing sentences with imagery can become easier; chances are, you've read many sentences that contain imagery, and not even realized it. It is one of the most common writing devices used in many different styles of writing, in both fiction and nonfiction, because it really helps to add an additional layer to the piece. The key to recognizing sentences with imagery is to look for descriptive language that invokes one of the five senses. Visual imagery is the most common, which describes the way something looks, but other types of imagery might describe the way something smells, tastes, or sounds, for example.

Some types of sentences with imagery that may be more difficult to recognize are sentences that make use of metaphor or simile, which are other types of imagery. A metaphor is something that says one thing actually is another; for instance, "The sky is a painting." A simile makes a similar comparison, but uses the words "like" or "as" to make the comparison. In this example, the sentence might be written "The sky is like a painting." Metaphor and simile are two literary devices that take practice to use and recognize, but they add a lot of imagery to the writing, and often make it more enjoyable to read and easier to imagine.

Writers use sensory imagery.
Writers use sensory imagery.

Other types of imagery are more straightforward and easier to recognize. Visual imagery is the most common, and is simply used to describe something using visual language. Rather than saying "The coffee cup is sitting on the table," a writer might say "The sky-blue coffee cup filled with steaming coffee sat on the distressed wooden table." The sentences are essentially saying the same thing, but the second one allows the reader to picture the scene in a much more complete way, which helps to involve the reader in the story more.

"His love is like a red rose," is an example of a simile.
"His love is like a red rose," is an example of a simile.

The best writers will use many different types of sentences with imagery, and not just stick to visual imagery. Describing the way something smells, the way a certain sound affects a character, or the perfect way food tastes all serve the same purpose, to draw the reader into the story. Sentences with imagery allow the reader to become lost in the story, without needing to fill in the gaps by himself or herself. The best writers won't make the reader guess, but will provide enough imagery to give a complete picture that includes all the senses. Even though recognizing imagery will take some conscious effort, chances are once you get the hang of it, it will become very easy to see.

Discussion Comments


I can recognize imagery when I see it but sometimes I actually want to ignore it because some writers overdo it. It's nice to use imagery every now and again. But I don't think it should be used constantly in every sentence.

Using a lot of descriptive words not only makes sentences very long but it's also tiring to read and think about. When imagery is used sparingly and intelligently, it flows and immediately conjures up an image in my mind. But if it's used a lot, I feel that the writer is a beginner who is trying to appear like a good writer by overusing imagery. I guess this is one of the things they teach to fiction writers.


@bluedolphin-- Yes, there is imagery there. The ocean can't kiss because kissing is a human attribute. So the ocean is being given a human attribute to better describe the action so that it comes alive in your mind. That's imagery. Any time that something is likened to another or given the characteristics of another, it's imagery.

I think that keeping a list of the types of imagery with you when you are reading something may help you find them. These types are things like auditory, visual, tactile, etc. Basically, anything that describes the way something looks, sounds, tastes, feels, etc., that's use of imagery.


I can never find imagery when it doesn't use "like" or "as." Without these markers, I'm lost. But I have homework on this topic and I need help. Can anyone tell me if there is imagery in this phrase:

"the ocean kissed the southern shore?"

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    • Writers use sensory imagery.
      By: Irochka
      Writers use sensory imagery.
    • "His love is like a red rose," is an example of a simile.
      By: margo555
      "His love is like a red rose," is an example of a simile.