What Is a Squinting Modifier? (with Examples)

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What Is a Squinting Modifier? (with Examples)

A squinting modifier is a modifier (usually an adverb) which could feasibly modify the words before it or the words after it. A squinting modifier is a type of misplaced modifier.

Examples of Squinting Modifiers

Here are some examples of squinting modifiers (shaded):
  • Cycling up hills quickly strengthens your quadriceps.
  • (In this example, the adverb quickly is a squinting modifier. It is unclear whether quickly pertains to Cycling up hills or strengthens.)

  • Taking a moment to think clearly improves your chances.
  • (In this example, the adverb clearly is a squinting modifier. It is unclear whether it pertains to think or improves.)

Fixing a Squinting Modifier

Like most misplaced modifiers, a squinting modifier can be fixed by changing its position in the sentence or by rewording. For example:
  • Cycling up hills strengthens your quadriceps quickly.

  • Taking a moment to think clearly about the issue improves your chances.

A Squinting Modifier is a Type of Misplaced Modifier

A squinting modifier can feasibly "look" left or right. A normal misplaced modifier (i.e., one that isn't squinting) might also feasibly modify one of two things in a sentence, but it does this by being ambiguous. Here is an example from the film Hot Fuzz:
"He was a hero at his last police station. He once shot a robber with a Kalashnikov."

     "Great, where did he get that?"

"No, the robber had the Kalashnikov."
In this example, the adverbial phrase with a Kalashnikov (a type of assault rifle) is a misplaced modifier. It cannot be squinting because there is nothing to its right. However, it is unclear whether it pertains to shot or a robber.

Read more about misplaced modifiers.
 
 


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