A Basic Guide to Squinting Modifiers

The question “what is squinting modifer?” is more common than you might imagine.

What Is a Squinting Modifier?

A squinting modifier is generally used to refer to misplaced adverbs, adjectives, or prepositions. This modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that produces unintended meaning due to its position in a sentence.

A squinting modifier can modify either the phrase that precedes it or the one that follows it. As a result, the intention of the sentence becomes unclear due to having two apparent meanings.

Example Sentence: Reading quickly improves communication skills.

It’s confusing to understand whether the adverb quickly modifies the word ‘reading’ or the phrase ‘improves communication skills.’

Two white and black One Way-printed road signages placed perpendicularly
Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

How to Fix a Squinting Modifier?

Place modifiers in a sentence where they are grammatically correct and do not add confusion. Sentences that include a misplaced or squinting modifier can easily be fixed by introducing a clarifying word before or after the modifier.

To correct a squinting modifier, reposition it in the sentence to make it clear which word you intend to modify.

Incorrect Sentence: Playing loud music often annoys her.

Correct Sentence: Playing loud music annoys her often.

What Causes a Misplaced Modifier?

Here are some reasons a misplaced modifier might occur.

Whan Modifiers are Far Away

When modifiers are far away from the words they modify, the meaning of the sentence is altered, resulting in a misplaced modifier error. Modifiers should always be placed as close as feasible to the words they modify.

Confusing Sentence: The company needs a new customer representative who can handle clients badly.

Is the company showing urgency or looking for an incompetent customer representative to handle the clients?

Better Sentence: The company badly needs a new customer representative who can handle clients.

Using Modifiers at the Beginning of a Sentence

Using a modifier at the starting of a sentence to modify words other than the subject will create a modifier error. Any modifier at the beginning of a sentence must modify the subject.

Confusing Sentence: Walking to the shop, the rain has drenched John

The modifier ‘Walking to the shop’ is not modifying the correct subject.

Better Sentence: Walking to the shop, John was drenched in the rain.

Wrapping Up

The most common mistake people make when using modifiers is using them in the wrong place – in an incorrect or misplaced part of speech. When a person is writing, he often forgets to consider where a modifier should go. This is a common mistake found in most papers.

It can be frustrating to read through a blog post, article, or novel that has a squinting modifier because of the doubt it poses. Even though you may understand what the writer intended, the squinting modifier feels wrong. It breaks the flow of the sentence. This article is a quick guide on what is a squinting modifier and how to fix them.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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