Whenever you add something to a sentence to enhance the meaning or to add more information about it, you need something called a ‘modifier’. Such words are usually adverbs or adjectives, depending on the requirement of the writer. If you want to modify the noun, then you need an adjective modifier. On the other hand, if you wish to modify a verb, then your sentence necessitates an adverb modifier.
In some cases, nouns, clauses and other phrases could also be used as modifiers.
Modifiers could either be squinting, dangling or misplaced. Though neither of the three is acceptable in written English, today we shall take a look at Squinting modifiers, and why we should avoid them when writing in English.
Such a type of modifier is a type of the misplaced category. One of the chief reasons why writers and editors disagree with squinting modifiers is because they make the sentence ambiguous. An ambiguous sentence is one in which there is a scope for confusion. The modifier might not make what it is modifying, thus leading to the confusion.
When we saw ‘squinting’, it means that the modifier is not used in the right place, that means, it could modify the text before or after. The word squint in itself means, one is unsure of the direction he/she is looking- right or left. Such a misplaced modifier keeps one in the same confusion, whether to look in the right of the modifier or left.
Let us take a look at this with an example.
Saving lives often induces pride.
In the above sentence, the word ‘often’ is the modifier. The place of the word is in such a manner that one cannot know if it is adding informing about saving lives or inducing pride.
To fix this squinting modifier, we need to move the place of the modifier. It could be ‘Often, saving lives induces pride.’ In this case, we know that the word ‘often’ is adding more information about the phrase ‘saving lives’.
Let us understand the concept of squinting modifiers with another example. ‘He can only lend me ten dollars.’ In this sentence, the modifier ‘only’ makes the sentence ambiguous. We do not know if it means to say if ‘only he’ can lend ten dollars or that he can lend ‘only ten dollars’.
Once again, the modifier needs to find its right place. You can change the sentence to ‘Only he can lend me ten dollars’ or ‘He can lend me ten dollars only.‘
Practice Fixing Such Modifiers
Now that you know the concept of Squinting Modifiers, it would be easy for you to fix the following sentences. Remember, you have to find the modifier, and replace it or reconstruct the entire sentence. Leave no scope for ambiguity. If you answer them, then leave your responses in the comment section below.
- She told her nephew eventually the dog would have to go back to its owner.
- She believes massage often improves her blood circulation.
- May told her mother after she got married, she had no intention to have a child.
- Taking a moment to think clearly improves your chances.
- Public speakers who pause briefly refocus their audience.
- Cycling up hills quickly strengthens your quadriceps.
- Jumping up and down quickly entertained him.
- Getting married quickly changes your ways.
If you enjoyed this lesson on Squinting Modifiers, then keep watching our space for a lesson on Dangling modifiers. Until then, make sure you eliminate ambiguity from your sentences.