Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Excuse me, your headline is squinting at me

Seldom do you get such an exquisite example of a "squinter" in 24-point type as this from today's State newspaper:

Kids who eat out often
face greater health risks

Why is it a "squinter"? Because the adverb often is trapped between two verbs: Are kids who eat out more likely to face greater health risks? Or do those health risks rise only when you eat out a lot?

It's simply fixed: Move often to before eat.

Now, there are valid objections that we usually don't talk that way (with often before eat), and a squinter isn't going to make the world stop. It might not even lead to as much misunderstanding or as many snickers as a dangler. But it's a sign of craftsmanship, and it does make people do a double take. One woman with whom I routinely discuss such matters -- oh, OK, my lovely wife -- said she had to read it twice this morning to understand it.

(The story by John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a couple of squinters in the text, too:
-- Kids who eat in restaurants often are more likely to have risk factors for both cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to a study presented here.
-- It adds to earlier research showing that children who eat out frequently are more likely to be overweight.)


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