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The last sentence here – supplemental – what distinguishes it from a sentence that would cause a comma splice?

If I was to write - it was the most fitting conclusion... it would become a comma splice and need a semi-colon.

winning his favorite competition, the long jump, and bringing home another Gold Medal for the United States, the most fitting conclusion to his brilliant career in track and field.

Source: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/run-on.htm (full sentence)

also: would this last sentence take a dash instead of a comma? Would either be correct?

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    You have not given us a sentence, but a fragment. If you add was after "United states" and remove that comma it would be a sentence. Winning his ....and bringing .... was the most fitting ....field. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 31 '18 at 14:56
  • If you were to insert ; it was... the first clause is still only a fragment lacking a finite verb. A dash between the two clauses would be permissible; then the first clause is a noun-phrase just hanging out there on the clothesline to dry. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 31 '18 at 15:15
  • If it was: John won the competition, the long jump, and brought home another Gold Medal for the United States, the most fitting conclusion to his brilliant career in track and field. It would need a semi-colon - correct instead of a comma. – bluebell1 May 31 '18 at 20:04
  • No. That is wrong. You have not understood the last paragraph in my answer. the most fitting conclusion to his brilliant career in track and field. is a noun-phrase, a fragment only, not an independent clause with a finite (tensed) verb. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 31 '18 at 21:05
  • Would we not class it as an absolute clause as ti has the subject – bluebell1 Jan 4 '19 at 20:21
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Winning his favorite competition, the long jump, and bringing home another Gold Medal for the United States—it was the most fitting conclusion to his brilliant career in track and field.

That is OK. It's comparable to Passing the Bar exam—that was his goal.

Winning his favorite competition, the long jump, and bringing home another Gold Medal for the United States was the most fitting conclusion to his brilliant career in track and field.

That is OK too. This syntax is the simpler of the two. Subject + predicate. Passing the Bar exam was his goal.

Winning his favorite competition, the long jump, and bringing home another Gold Medal for the United States; it was the most fitting conclusion to his brilliant career in track and field.

That is not OK. Winning ... States is not an independent clause. Each piece of a sentence (not a list) separated by semicolons must be able to stand independently as a finite clause. Passing the Bar exam; it was his goal. NO.

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