Squinting modifiers:

A squinting modifier, also called two-way modifier, is an adverb or phrase placed between two phrases, and can be used to modify either one. 

 

We should avoid using squinting modifiers as they introduce confusion to the sentence because people may read it either way.

 

The way to avoid a squinting modifier is to place it right next to the phrase it modifies.

 

Example #1:

Playing frequently is fun.  (Confusing)

 

Here, “frequently” can be used to modify “playing” or “is fun”. 

 

To change the sentence, so it is not confusing anymore, place the modifier close to the phrase that it intends to modify.

 

Correction:

Playing is frequently fun.  => Here, “frequently” is used to modify “is fun”.

 

Frequently playing is fun. => Here, “frequently” is used to modify “playing”.

 

Example #2:

Employees who underperformed often got fired.  (Confusing)

 

What does “often” intend to modify?

Is it “employees who underperformed often” or is it “often got fired”?

It is unclear.

 

Correction:

Employees who often underperformed got fired.

Employees who underperformed got fired often.

 

Example #3:

John agrees eventually to take the position. (Confusing)

 

Does it mean that John agrees to take the position sometime in the future? Or does this mean that John takes a long time to agree?

 

Correction:

John agrees to take the position eventually.

John eventually agrees to take the position.


Example #4:

My parents told me in May they would come to visit me. (Confusing)

 

Did may parent told me in May?

Or is May the date that they would come to visit me?

 

Correction:

In May, my parents told me that they would come to visit me.

My parents told me that they would come to visit me in May.


Example #5:

Taking a break to think clearly benefits the group.  (Confusing)

 

What does “clearly” intend to modify?

“Taking a break to think clearly” or “clearing benefits the group”?

It is unclear.

 

Correction:

Taking a break to clearly think, benefits the group.

Taking a break to think, benefits the group clearly.

 

Example #6:

The investment bank that had a huge scandal recently went bankrupt.

 

What does “clearly” intend to modify?

“Had huge scandal recently” or “recently went bankrupt”?

It is unclear.

 

Correction:

The investment bank that recently had a huge scandal went bankrupt.

The investment bank that had a huge scandal went bankrupt recently.

 

Example #7:

Applicants who work normally are accepted in the first round of enrollment evaluation. (Confusion)

 

Is it “applicants who work normally”, or “normally are accepted in the first round of enrollment evaluation”?

 

Correction:

Applicants who normally work are accepted in the first round of enrollment evaluation.

Applicants who work are normally accepted in the first round enrollment evaluation.

 

Example #8:

I told Mary when I have a break I would call her back. (Confusion)

 

Does it mean that “I told Mary when I have a break”, or does it mean that “When I have break, I would call her back”?

 

Correction:

When I have a break, I told Mary (that) I would call her back.

I told Mary (that) I would call her back when I have a break?

 

Example #9:

Kids who listen to parents usually will have more success as they grow up. (Confusion)

 

Does it mean that “Kids who listen to parents usually”, or

“Usually will have more success as they grow up”?

 

Correction:

Kids who usually listen to parents will have more success as they grow up.

Kids who listen to parents will usually have more success as they grow up.

 

Example #10:  

I watch cartoons only because I have small children.  (Confusion)

 

Do I watch cartoons only? Or only because I have small children?

 

Correction:

Because I have small children, I watch cartoons only.

Only because I have small children do I watch cartoons.

 

Example #11:

The project manager who delivers well deserves the compliments.  (Confusing)

 

Does "well" relate to the project manager who can deliver or “deserve the compliments”?

 

Correction:

The project manager, who well delivers, deserves the compliments. 

The project manager, who delivers, well deserves the compliments.

 

Example #12:

The police who was chasing the thief furiously went inside a supermarket. (Confusion)

 

Was the police chasing the thief furiously? Or was the police furiously went inside a supermarket.

 

Correction:

The police who was furiously chasing the thief went inside a supermarket.

The police who was chasing the thief went inside a supermarket furiously.

 

 

Is it much clear now?

 

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