Squinting Modifier

Squinting modifiers are modifiers that could feasibly modify the words before it or the words after it. A squinting modifier is a type of misplaced modifier.

Easy Examples of Squinting Modifiers

In the following examples, the squinting modifiers are shaded:
  • Saving lives often induces pride.
  • Getting married quickly changes your ways.

Real-Life Examples of Squinting Modifiers

Here are some real-life examples of squinting modifiers:
  • She told her nephew eventually the dog would have to go back to its owner.
  • Audrey told her husband after they got married she wanted a sex change.
  • Public speakers who pause briefly refocus their audience.

Why Should I Care About Squinting Modifiers?

A squinting modifier makes your sentence ambiguous. You can eliminate this ambiguity by changing the position of the squinting modifier or by restructuring the sentence.
  • Cycling up hills quickly strengthens your quadriceps.
  • (It is unclear whether the adverb quickly pertains to cycling or strengthens.)
  • Cycling up hills strengthens your quadriceps quickly.
  • (After changing the position of quickly, the ambiguity is removed.)
Most people would take the meaning of the first example to be the same as the second example (especially if spoken), but writers should make an effort to avoid squinting modifiers.
Summary:

Fix a squinting modifier by changing its position in the sentence or by restructuring.
A list of cognitive biases with examples