An author's use of words will depend on that specific author and his or her writing style. For example, Hemingway had a famously short, simple style that just about anyone could read and appreciate, refusing to use long words or complex ideas. He conveys time, place, and atmosphere in a relative scarcity of words: the introductory sentence in Hills Like White Elephants simply reads "The hills across the valley of the Ebro' were long and white."
Other authors will go to far greater lengths to describe people, places, and moments. One of the most famous examples of lengthy description comes from War and Peace, where Tolstoy spends several pages making a metaphor of the deserted city of Moscow and a beehive. This reflects a tendency in classical literature (and especially Russian classical literature) to mix prose with philosophy.
Words that an author uses to convey time tend be in terms of how short or long: a phrase like "a few heartbeats" means the action has not lasted long, while "dusk to dawn" indicates a full day or a lengthy period. Likewise, places are often described by their size, their location, and how they make characters feel. Words for atmosphere tend to be adjectives closely associated with emotions.
Whether words are effective and make the reader feel emotion depends on both author and reader. As one example, the novel The Catcher in the Rye is tremendously divisive: many believe it to be a great book, while many others dislike the main character and narrative style.