descriptors / writers resources

34 Ways to Describe Scents

coffeeFor the next few months, weekly writing tips will include word choice suggestions. That includes:

  • colorful and original descriptions
  • pithy words and phrases
  • picture nouns and action verbs
  • writing that draws a reader in and addicts them to your voice

I keep a  collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. This one’s on how to describe scents.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).


  • Anais anais
  • Her perfume smelled like jasmine.
  • Her hair smelled like crisp apples
  • All I could smell was my own human breath, my own human body and the faint metallic odor of blood
  • The smell of tobacco hung on him like a cloud
  • Smelling like they hadn’t bathed in a month
  • Coppery tang of blood
  • Sticky, meaty smell of flesh
  • Recognized her scent like the return of spring
  • Jet could smell nicotine and sweat radiating off the man’s rumpled suit.
  • Metallic odor of blood


  • Savory smells
  • mouth-watering aroma
  • if the wind was right, I could catch the scent of sauerbraten wafting across the street from Jake Wirth’s
  • The smells here were hot dog water, pot, curry and incense


  • tainted by a faint odor
  • cheerless room
  • air was thick with mildew despite the fan
  • powerful scent of rust, seaweed, and decay hit his nostrils. Sometimes, he wished he didn’t have a heightened sense of smell


  • they could smell it, couldn’t they? It was like booze on the breath
  • Smelled of desperation accumulated over the years
  • A rainbow of emotion
  • Furnished with memories and emotions that only I can see and feel
  • The metallic scent of fear

motorcycle Outdoors

  • The air was full of the smell of burned rubber and hot brakes and gas and oil.
  • The air smelled of hay, wheat, sweetgrass, budding flowers, turned earth
  • Air smelled of fried food, gasoline, and wet concrete
  • Tag of diesel fuel from the long line of taxis
  • Smell of the bear was strong in the grove, hanging like smoke about three feet above the ground
  • The aroma heavy with marine decay


  • Malodor of dank concrete and compacted humanity no ventilator fan could ever drive out
  • The room smelling of tobacco and crumbling plaster and peeling wallpaper
  • The condo smelled of mold and rug beer and food left rotting in the sink on crusted plates.
  • The room had that odd institution food smell that was a mixture of canned green beans, warmed-over dinner rolls, and tomato sauce.

More descriptions:

28 Ways to Describe Geeks

19 Ways to Describe Spies

72 Ways to Describe Sound

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

52 thoughts on “34 Ways to Describe Scents

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  4. I need to start copying these descriptive cues you give us every week. I’m desperately in need of more ammunition for my descriptions. Thanks, Jacqui.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right. It’s what gets me addicted to particular writers. I’m reading Steven Hamilton right now who does a superb job of putting me right into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula world. I shiver and freeze my nose off along with him in every book.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What an interesting list, Jacqui. The stinky smells seem to outweigh the pleasant ones but they’re also more fun to describe. Four other smells that I note as frequently mentioned in books are that of rain, ocean, coffee, and fire/smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

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