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“The war went well—-at first.”

“Tenet, who rarely talked to reporters directly, even called a New York Times reporter on deadline to ensure this point would make it into the paper—-and it did.”

“In May 2000, Les, the Defense Department physician detailed to the CPD and one of the intelligence community’s leading experts on biological weapons, was able to meet Curveball—-briefly.”

The excerpts above come from Hubris, the Michael IsikoffDavid Corn collaboration on the runup to the Iraq war—-and required reading for anyone wanting to know just how many lies paved the way to our modern quagmire. The authors break a host of new revelations and couch the entire affair in a readable narrative—-packed with telling details about the U.S. government’s highest-ranking officials. It’s the sweetest of reads—-except for its extensive reliance on drama dashes.

You know the drama dash—-it’s everywhere. It’s the magician’s approach to narrative: Now, folks, direct your attention to what I have in this box—-ta-da! It’s a cheap, shortcutty route to infusing your writing with suspense and surprise—-and it’s on the rise in publications across the land.* It’s also yet another of journalism’s lame attempts to kowtow to the short attention spans of nonreaders—-whoever they may be. The idea here is that the more rabbits you pull out of the hat via the drama dash, the more readily you’ll rope in readers—-and keep them.

Drop the drama dash—-and fast.

* wild guess