What is a Squinting Modifier? Definition, Examples of Misplaced Modifiers

Squinting modifier definition: A squinting modifier is a type of modifier (a word that describes) that is misplaced. A squinting modifier can modify the word or phrase before or after it.

What is a Squinting Modifier?

What does squinting modifier mean? A squinting modifier is a word that describes something but that is out of place. It is out of place because it could modify the word or phrase that comes before or after it.

Squinting modifiers are a type of misplaced modifier, and they can change the meaning of sentences. This is because the intention of the sentence is unclear. As a result, two different sentences (or meanings) exist.

Squinting modifiers are usually adverbs.

Squinting Modifier Example:

  • Jumping up and down quickly entertained him.
    • The problem here is that the adverb “quickly” could modify the phrases “jumping up and down” or “entertained him”
    • Is it that he was jumping up and down quickly?
    • Or is it that he was quickly entertained?

Fixing a Squinting Modifier

misplaced modifiers powerpointWriters should avoid squinting modifiers. Sentences with squinting modifiers should be restructured so it is very clear which word or words the modifier describes.

How to Fix a Squinting Modifier:

  • Incorrect: Saving a life often made him feel proud.
    • Unclear meaning: Did he save a life often or did the action often make him feel proud?
  • Correct: Saving a life made him feel proud often.
    • Clear meaning: feels proud often because he saves lives.

What’s Wrong with Misplaced Modifiers?

example of squinting modifierMisplaced modifiers can change the meaning of sentences. This is clear in the examples above. It is important to be very clear which words modifiers describe.

In this light, place modifiers only in sentences where:

  1. they are grammatically correct
  2. they do not add confusion
  3. they make clear which words they modify

Other Types of Misplaced Modifiers

Squinting modifiers are only one type of modifier. Other modifiers that a writer might misplace include dangling modifiers and limiting modifiers.

Limiting modifiers

squint definitionWhat is a limiting modifier? Limiting modifiers express some sort of “limit.” They should be placed directly before the word they modify in a sentence.

The most common limiting modifiers are: almost, barely, hardly, just, merely, nearly, and only.

Limiting Modifier Examples:

Trying to say that the one activity Ina enjoys is dancing.

  • Incorrect: Only Ina enjoys dancing.
  • Correct: Ina enjoys only dancing.

Trying to say that Rebekah likes a lot of people.

  • Incorrect: Rebekah almost likes everyone.
  • Correct: Rebekah likes almost everyone.

Trying to say Steve will eat nothing but pizza.

  • Incorrect: Steve only eats pizza.
  • Correct: Steve eats only pizza.

Trying to say Steve will do nothing with pizza but eat it.

  • Incorrect: Steve eats only pizza.
  • Correct: Steve only eats pizza.

Dangling modifiers

define squinting What is a dangling modifier? A dangling modifier does not have anything to modify because the word or words it should modify have been omitted from the sentence.

These sentences should be restructured to include the words the modifiers describe.

Dangling Modifier Examples:

  • Incorrect: Understanding the daycare’s policies, the baby waited for her mom.
    • The baby cannot understand the policies; the word(s) that “understanding the daycare’s policies” modifies have been omitted.
  • Correct: Understanding the daycare’s policies, the mother picked up her baby.
    • “Understanding the daycare’s policies” now modifies “mother.”

Summary: What are Squinting Modifiers?

Define squinting modifier: the definition of squinting modifier is a modifier that could easily modify the word before it or the words after it, creating an unclear meaning.

In summary, a squinting modifier:

  • is a type of misplaced modifier
  • makes unclear which word or words it modifies
  • is usually an adverb
  • should be corrected to make the meaning of a sentence clear
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