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Use dashes (often called "long dashes" or "em dashes") to enclose and set off parenthetical (nonessential but often illustrative) information in a sentence. Also use dashes to set off a list of items separated by commas. Do not add spaces around the dash.

The polymer components of the cell walls—cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin—provide the feedstocks for these chemicals.

Use an em dash to signal that an important point is going to be made or that a change in the construction of the sentence follows.

The presentation concluded with a discussion of the two project factors that concern contractors the most—cost and time.

The major omission in the project assessment was the delay caused by the circuit failures—everyone knew about it, but no one mentioned it to the reviewers.

You can usually use commas, colons, and semicolons in place of dashes, but dashes add special emphasis.

Use shorter dashes known as "en dashes" (rather than a hyphen or em dash) to indicate a range or to substitute for the word "to."

25–45 cm2
2–5 runs per hour
See sections 3.1–3.6
Jan. 16–Feb. 3, 2011.

In date spans, do not use "from" in conjunction with an en dash (e.g., "from Jan. 16–Feb. 3"). The correct form is "from Jan. 16 to Feb. 3" or "Jan. 16–Feb. 3."

Do not use an en dash (or hyphen) to mean "and"; the word "between" is followed by the word "and" (not "to"): between 25 and 30.