The INFP Writing Personality: Elegant Persuasion

Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential
to give something back.
—Diana, Princess of Wales

Have you ever wondered whether your personality affects your writing style?

If you’re an INFP writer, chances are, the answer is yes.  INFPs have a natural aptitude for writing. In exploring this solitary pursuit, you can communicate your deeply held values and experiment with elegant, inventive uses of language. But you may find that formal approaches taught in writing classes don’t seem to work for you. Composing an opening paragraph may prove impossible until you’ve fleshed out the major ideas. Developing an outline may turn a pleasurable activity into an intolerable one—and your zest for the topic may wither away. INFPs write best when their imagination is unfettered.

The INFP personality type is one of 16 identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a popular psychometric instrument used to determine how people prefer to gather information and make decisions. The initials INFP stand for the following:

I: Introversion preferred to extraversion
INFPs get their energy from the internal world of thoughts and ideas. They enjoy interacting with small groups of people but find large groups draining. They generally reflect before acting.

N: iNtuition preferred to sensation
INFPs are abstract thinkers, placing more trust in flashes of insight than in experience. They’re less interested in sensory data than in the patterns perceived by the unconscious mind. INFPs tend to be intellectually restless—they want to change the world.

F: Feeling preferred to thinking
INFPs prefer to use their rational feeling function when making decisions. They place more emphasis on the effect that actions have on people than they do on adhering to the rule of logic. They tend to give other people the benefit of the doubt.

P: Perception preferred to judgment
INFPs like to keep their options open. They enjoy beginning new projects and exploring opportunities as they arise. INFPs think in terms of possibilities rather than likelihoods.

Are you an INFP writer? If so, the following information may give you some insight into how temperament influences your writing style. Use these insights to help you play to your strengths and compensate for your natural blind spots.

Writing Process of the INFP

INFPs may approach a writing project in the following ways:

  • Work best in a quiet environment where they won’t be interrupted. They like autonomy so they can perfect their writing according to their own high standards without having to follow someone else’s schedule.
  • Prefer writing about personal topics. You may lose your creative drive if the subject isn’t meaningful to you. If so, try taking an angle that allows you to write about your feelings on the topic. If you’re an INFP technical writer, look for ways to connect with readers by anticipating and meeting their needs.
  • Have a keen insight into the nature of things. Their prose often conveys startling images of mood or atmosphere rather than objects. They enjoy complexity and can patiently unravel dense material. They are able to see many sides of an argument and so may have difficulty reaching a conclusion. During the writing process, they may often pause to consider alternatives or to seek connections between seemingly disparate things.

Potential Blind Spots of the INFP

INFPs may experience the following pitfalls:

  • Strive for elegance in language and may want to polish the work too soon. INFPs tend to write long, meandering first drafts, so you’ll likely need to synthesize and cut material later. Save the search for that perfect metaphor until the revision stage.
  • May write in purely abstract terms. INFPs communicate their values and personal vision through their writing. They search for the meaning behind the facts, and so may consider the facts themselves to be of marginal importance. This is not true, however, for most of your readers. During revision, add concrete details. Appeal to the five senses. Include statistics. Incorporate other points of view for balance. Make sure your research backs up your conclusions.
  • Tend to be sensitive to criticism. Nevertheless, consider showing your work to a trusted friend or colleague before you begin the final draft. This feedback may be especially helpful in focusing your work and ensuring that it includes enough facts to sway your audience to your position.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong approach to writing. Each person is unique, so don’t let generalities limit you. Do what works best for you.

Do you have any tips for INFP writers? Leave a comment and share your experience.
Also, for more information on this subject, check out the sources below.

Write from the Start
by Ann B. Loomis
What Type Am I? by Renee Baron
Your Personality Type and Writing
from the Villanova University website
Princess Diana Quotes at



56 thoughts on “The INFP Writing Personality: Elegant Persuasion

  1. Wow this is definitely how I write. Most people don’t even understand the main idea of my freewrites and short stories. You gave helpful advice as I do notice that I expend large amounts of energy on feelings instead of highlighting facts readers can relate to and utilize. I also dawdle and go on and on until I get the hunch that it’s finished. Thanks. =]

  2. I was raised by an ENTJ and so I learned how to back my arguments up with data, but still I tend to remain in the abstract. I’m not much for describing the sensory details of my existence. My writing is filled with an overflowing number of ideas that meander and interconnect. I try to bring order to it all, but I hate editing.

    I’m sometimes reluctant to start writing because I can write endlessly about some topics. And once started I always find further ideas and examples to bring up. There is never an end to the possible connections. Everything is connected!

    As for criticism, I’m better at accepting it in terms of the logic or substance of my writing. I can’t stand criticism of my wrting style because it represents my thinking style. I can’t change how I think and I don’t want to. If someone doesn’t like the way I write, that is their problem. That said, I do try my best to communicate well. I want to know that my experience can be understood by others and so I put great effort in my writing.

  3. Benjamin, thanks for your comments. It sounds as if you might benefit from an outline during the revision stage. It can be difficult for NF writers to limit their topic for a couple of reasons: first, as you say, they readily see the connections between ideas; and second, because their writing is often an expression of deeply held beliefs. An outline would help you determine the key factors for the particular essay, article, or story you’re writing. (The other ideas you can save for a different piece.) By limiting yourself to a few key points, you make your argument more cogent, direct, and powerful, thus having a stronger impact on your audience.

    It’s typical in a first draft to write the way you think. This ensures that your voice shines through—and your voice is the one thing you have that no one else does. But during revision, the writer’s role is to reorganize the material and present it so that the topic develops naturally from the reader’s perspective. This gives your words greater weight and impact. Writing for an audience isn’t about self-expression; it’s about communication. The key to effective communication is to keep the audience’s needs in mind.

  4. Wow. Thanks for this! I never realized that my personality type could effect my writing and now it all makes sense. I’ve always hated technical writing and thought that it was just because I was lazy or just not very good at it. It’s good to know that that’s not the case! Thanks again.

  5. Glad you enjoyed the article, Reannon. I know several INFPs who excel in the field of technical communication; it aligns with their interests and values. Personality type should never be used as an excuse, but there’s not much point in staying in a field you hate. INFPs are unlikely to be happy in a job where they don’t feel like they’re making a difference.

  6. I almost failed freshman english in highschool because of outlines, I would usually put a quick one together after i finnished the paper. That english teacher never did enjoy my writing, it wasn’t until I found a teacher that literally told write what you feel like writing that I actually started to enjoy it, it became an outlet for me to write, poetry, songs, essays, or random whatever whenever I felt like it.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Harpboy. It’s not unusual for perceiving types to write the outline after they’ve finished the paper — a rather pointless execise. An outline is a tool, and like all tools, its purpose is to make your job easier. If it doesn’t make your job easier, then there’s no point in using it.

      I’m glad you were able to learn to enjoy writing. I’m afraid that too often, writing instruction that’s poorly adapted to the student gives them a negative feeling about writing that they never overcome.

      1. A common mistake is that people think teachers are there to nurture the creative spark of each individual student. They aren’t. They are there to get a group of 30 students to pass, and they only have about three hours a week to do it. Moreover, they spend a quarter of that time coaxing students to sit down, shut up and pick up a pencil. In the remaining time they have to troubleshoot i.e. the students seem to have NO IDEA what they are supposed to be writing and also have NO MOTIVATION to do so, time’s running out and it looks like they’re going to FAIL. Instead of walking away and putting her feet up, the teacher screams, “Writing a freakin’ outline! Get started, now!” and hounds the students until they have written something barely acceptable, by any means possible, which will get them a passing grade. Done! She worked hard, she got them a pass. Does she get any thanks? No. These students will then spend the rest of their lives whining because their teacher never helped them to express their creativity properly.

      2. How sad. This is one more example of the erosion of civility in our society, that parents don’t even thank teachers for screaming at their children until they do the bare minimum they need to do in order to pass.

      3. I’m also an INFP but I went through a different creative path: artistic drawing. It’s funny how I found exactly the same problem there as you did with writing!
        They teach drawing by drawing the outline first and I simply can’t do it that way, I must start with all the detail, I feel totally stuck if I start with the outline!
        Glad to know that with another artistic skill it happens the same way because I think it gets more personal by starting with the details.
        Will try writing soon, since I never tried it because I always felt very frustrated with my writing, my teachers were always terrible, I lost all the interest in it… (I’m not a native English speaker so my English may even be worse).

  7. I stumbled across this post today, and I’m so glad I found it. I do a lot of technical, persuasive writing for my profession and have always been good at it. I did a lot of creative writing as a child, and I’m thinking about returning to it, but I’ve been hesitant for many reasons – some of which are mentioned here (meandering drafts, larger ideas without a lot of detail, criticism). Thank you for writing this post – it’s given me more insight into the type of writing strengths I may have, as well as how to identify and improve on my weaknesses.

    Going now to check out the rest of your site!

  8. Cool! I know my writing can get too abstract and I need to spell things out for the audience. I’ll keep your tip in mind to add concrete detail. I’ve already learned the one about searching for the right metaphor in the editing process and not in the first draft.
    Thank you,

  9. I’m an aspiring writer and this article really boosted my confidence because I am supposedly an INFP. I do tend to ramble about every little detail which gets quite annoying. And yes, criticism isn’t my favourite thing. But I constantly want it. Weird. But being 15, I feel my books won’t be a success because I strive for philosophy in the smallest of the small things. Is that me trying act like a grown up?

    1. To be successful, authors must be true to their own voice and their own vision. But they must also respect the needs of their audience. That’s why critique is so important. Sometimes our critique partners tell us things we don’t want to hear. But a good critique partner wants that author to succeed, and focuses on making the work better while maintaining the author’s vision. Without critique, it’s difficult to improve. It can be exciting when a critique partner points out a problem, and the author comes up with a great idea for fixing it.

      Keep writing, and learn as much as you can. Take classes. Read books on the craft of writing. Most importantly, never give up. You don’t fail until you stop trying.

  10. That’s a key to your self realisation. this article helps me a lot to find myself from where to start and how. Thank you. And of course thanks for letting me know the process of our thinking although unknowingly I did follow them. I am not a frequent writer. But at school too i couldn’t understand their principles.And talking about outline. funny we have had quite the opposite story to tell – Cathrine . The thing is that I have tried drawing and found the same problem of finishing it. The thing is I always started with an outline. when drawing a face I often start with the chin , and I didn’t reach the forehead sometimes not even ears. And thanks for that tip. And then I dropped drawing and started writing where I didn’t find much problem of expressing my feelings. May be because of the teachers I had , they were quite inspirational and of course very informative and helpful as they should be. Also I was quite good at picking things up when they went off topic while lecturing and found them getting lost in a good way and coming back to the textbook unwillingly at the same time.

  11. While I do relate a lot to this article as an INFP, I actually find outlines useful as long I have the end in mind. In fact, I use them to help me make sense of my writing before starting my rough draft so that I can make sense of my abstract thoughts and ideas. Even then, everything is still connected one way or another.

    P.s. I was raised by an ESTJ(?) mother, so I was definitely taught to support my arguments with strong facts.

    1. The INFP writers I know have tended to use tools to stay super organized—way more organized than I am as an INFJ. That sounds contradictory. But because the two types live so much in their heads, INFPs like to stay externally organized so their thoughts can flow freely. INFJs, on the other hand, care less about external organization, as long as they’ve got an internal structure for their ideas. All my outlines are in my head. I’m sure that if I write them down, I’ll lose interest.

  12. As an INFP writer, I find that drawing the plot is a great way to outline. I usually draw my story as a circle and add notes on the outside about external forces and add notes on the inside about internal forces.

  13. Getting it on paper sometimes is the hardest part for me because normally I’ll have characters and ideas and even scenery all in my head just sitting there for years before actually making the time to scribble or type it to flesh it out. Usually I make lists of characters’ names and places to research which includes the languages, cultures and landscapes which is all about enhancing the fiction part of the writing not necessarily about making it accurate as such. But I must say above all else what has been helpful to me after I read it in a book about writing is to just concentrate on writing for 7 minutes every day and then stop to take a breather and put some distance between you and the story. This has helped me to not think in terms of taking the whole day off to write, but to just get some of it out of my head little by little and then stitch it together later once it looks like it is ready to solidify in a real way.

    My friend has a different method which he says works best for him is to try to write it all within a month so that it gives him a deadline to work toward and publish it online either partially or the complete version once he has an actual satisfactory story done.

  14. This information isn’t what l was looking for, but that’s okay. The information deals more with the stereotypical Infp, which doesn’t apply to me. However, l do like your advice to write 100/200 words a day, which is an excellent idea. I will give it a try. Thanks, Andrea

  15. I enjoy writing and find it an outlet for the emotions i often bottle up. I’ve tried to follow conventional writing advice and found it tedious and counter-productive. I thought this was because i wasn’t cut out to be a writer. I’d consequently stopped writing as much as i used to. I’ve been identified as an INFP and I can totally relate to this article. I wish I’d known these things sooner so that I could have developed my craft sooner. I am deeply indebted to you for these insights.

  16. It’s impressive that you understand all the types so well that you can advise them on writing. Are you an INFP yourself?

    1. I’m an INFJ. My understanding of the types is based on research from numerous sources, as well as decades of experience as a professional writer and editor.

  17. Wow. So this is over 10 years old, but I am so glad I was able to find it! Something funny – this felt very accurate and I am working on myself and my ability to write, so I was copying over the text you have here to a word document as a form of note taking, and after you wrote “Likes to unravel dense material”, I noted, “yes, but to what end? Which is the correct form of unravelling?” and then saw the next sentence which says that we are able to see many sides and have difficult reaching a conclusion.

    I DIED. You get us. Thank you for this.

  18. Here we go again. After many years of off and on research into this stuff, I still don’t know for sure if I’m infp or intp or something completely different. By ‘here we go again’ I mean I get into researching and still can’t nail it so I let it go, forget about it. Until something happens, like the wife takes one of those tests, brings it up… I do love to write, but not all the time; tend to get bogged down or discouraged after getting so far and noticing a huge hole I overlooked; or a scene or part of a scene which description I just can’t seem to do justice to; takes awhile to get back in the mood. Really, sometimes nothing is less preferable as an activity than writing (anything) and other times nothing is more balls-out fun. Hm. 200 words per day. Sounds like it should be a cinch. I’ve completed a few novella-length works, but haven’t yet broken into the ranks of novels. Got a few that could be but by the time they get that far (in the territory of 60k, say) much of it is such a mess… then there’s always a better idea about what should happen to so-and-so or between so-and-so and so-and-so. Then there’s the wording, I mean the actual words… I have an even harder time with managing not so much many interests but about 3 or 4 that seem to compete for attention. Even when I do share my writings (like poetic pieces on my blog, or what I loosely call poetic pieces) seems it is suitable for a small audience, possibly the smallest audience in the world as well as all of the world’s history. Sometimes it gets me down a little and other times I’m kinda glad the audience remains small, just because I think a big spotlight would make me nervous. So does this comment feel like it was written by an infp?

    1. Thank you. I’m starting to wonder if all the searching has become a rabbit hole that really has no end and will never again open into the daylight. I noticed I left the comment about a month ago. It’s like trying to grab hold of a minnow that keeps squirting out of what suddenly feels like a firm grasp.

      1. You know, if all you want to do is write, than write! Why concern yourself if you are ‘this’ or ‘that’ type?

        On the other hand l get you. We are all here on a personal journey for growth and expansion and it starts with the self, selfhood, our identity, how we fit in to the bigger picture.

        For me embracing the idea that I’m an INFP because there are traits in me l like, others not so much and my, reading articles suggesting ways to counteract them is a great comfort and you know, gives me hope; in this case, to be a better writer in an efficient way.

        I’ve always wanted to publish, and say with confidence that I’m a writer. I have had many people of diverse backgrounds tell me l have talent. When asked; I can literally write almost anything, even quasi-legalese, having never studied law.

        The problem was for the longest time, l had no idea what l could contribute to the world. The Internet is and of itself is a gargantuan digital publication platform where people are publishing things all the time. With all this saturation of voices, is there something unique that l alone offer, and ACTUALLY MAKE A DECENT LIVING from it? Is that possible?

        The good news is that l have three or four writing projects l think l can do. Plus a website and blog. Another way of making money is a subscriber based newsletter platform… I forgot the name… I think it’s popular with freelance journalists now

  19. Myself being an INFP and an aspiring writer, I completely agree. I’m very sensitive to criticism and often start doubting my writing when I get not so nice feedback. It’s never dampened my dream to be a writer, though, which is definitely good.
    This is really helpful…thanks!!

  20. Thanks, Andrea very helpful information. Also, Lauren Sapala mentions the INFP writing style in her book
    “The INFJ Writer”, for those like “come to timmy” above looking for clarification. As an INFP, I don’t write in chronological order, have to stitch things together later like a patchwork quilt. Just a sloppy first draft is good. Also intrigued by Katherine Kennedy’s idea of using a circle. As an INFP, I’m always circling an idea. And yes, concrete details are key. I do live in my head.

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