Industry Views

Monday Memo: Verbs?

By Holland Cooke

imWarning: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts certified me to teach high school English, in the early 1970s, the last year certifications were for life. Though I was lured-away by VU-meter hypnosis, I still carry a red pen. And radio news has it running-dry.

This story was about a love triangle shooting.

— Here’s what listeners heard — read this aloud: “The woman’s husband arrested the wounded man taken to the hospital.”

— Here are the facts the writer obscured: Police arrested the woman’s husband, the accused shooter. The person he shot was hospitalized.

— As-is, the ear was told something very different when half-sentences ran-together.

Another example: “A cruise ship expected to take Americans out of Lebanon today.”

— I think he meant: “A cruise ship is expected to take Americans out of Lebanon today.”

— But the missing verb, the time zone difference, and the chaos in Lebanon were such that – as written — listeners could have inferred the copy to mean that a cruise ship was-expected-to evacuate Americans…until something went wrong.



“A young mother murdered the suspect found dead.”


“Woods asked directly about his future on the tour.”

It’s unclear whether this sentence means:

— Tiger Woods was asking about his future…OR…

— He was asked-about it.

Even a robot knows better

When I typed “Missing verbs confuse the ear,” ChatGPT replied:

“Yes, missing verbs can make sentences unclear and confusing to the listener or reader. Verbs are important components of a sentence as they express the action, state, or occurrence of the subject. They help to convey the intended meaning of the sentence and to show how different elements of the sentence relate to each other.”

And finally…

Never verb nouns.


Old English teacher joke.

Holland Cooke ( is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available from Talkers books; and “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download; and the E-book and FREE on-air radio features “Inflation Hacks: Save Those Benjamins.” Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke