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Q. I don’t understand why the following example in the serial comma section (CMOS 6.19) is not considered a comma splice: “Paul put the kettle on, Don fetched the teapot, and I made tea.”
A. Every so-called comma splice is a conjunction away from conformity. As comma splices go, the following sentence would be considered a classic case:
Paul put the kettle on, Don fetched the teapot.
You can fix the transgression by adding a conjunction or by changing the comma to a semicolon:
Paul put the kettle on, and Don fetched the teapot.
Paul put the kettle on; Don fetched the teapot.
But some editors would argue that the version with the comma splice isn’t truly an error; it’s simply two independent clauses joined by a conjunction that’s been elided: “Paul put the kettle on, [and] Don fetched the teapot.” Such elision is more common in casual prose, but it does have its place, particularly in creative writing.
With a series of three or more independent clauses, on the other hand, it is conventional to retain only the final “and”:
Paul put the kettle on, Don fetched the teapot, and I made tea.
You could place semicolons between the clauses, but most writers and editors save those for more complex series (see CMOS 6.60). As for supplying the “missing” conjunction, that would be pointless.