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I think it's valid to omit the conjunction in a parallel clause for effect, e.g.:

There can be no absolution, no forgiveness.

But is this still a valid variant of parallelism, or does the later phrase now serve as an aside that requires an extra comma? That is, should it be

There can be no absolution, no forgiveness for what he's done.

or

There can be no absolution, no forgiveness, for what he's done.

Somehow both look off to me. The conjunction-free parallel fragment is grammatical and common enough, e.g. "no harm, no foul", but can its use in a sentence be grammatical without re-adding a conjunction?

  • It's a more literary (and therefore less conversational) style. Here, the appositive would normally be set off by eg a pair of commas. With a non-appositive example (eg 'There were no vegetables, no fresh fruit, to be had'), I'd say the commas are equally necessary, though the register is not all that common. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 5 '17 at 23:35
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There can be no absolution, no forgiveness.

If the context leaves no doubt as to why "absolution" or "forgiveness" might be an issue, then this is fine. I prefer the construction without any conjunction.

If there is a need to explain why "absolution" or "forgiveness" might be involved, then this:

There can be no absolution, no forgiveness, for what he's done.

Which I think better than:

There can be no absolution, no forgiveness for what he's done.

With the two commas, "forgiveness" is in apposition to "absolution", creating what I believe is the intent, a single thought. With the single comma, there seems to be two thoughts. It will come to a matter of intent what form is chosen. As a matter of pure grammar, there is no issue here.

  • What about 'There were no vegetables, no fresh fruit, to be had'? – Edwin Ashworth Feb 5 '17 at 14:47
  • Edwin Ashworth, I would prefer a conjunction: "There were no vegetables nor fresh fruit to be had". "There were no vegetables, no fresh fruit, to be had" reads to me as "vegetables" and "fresh fruit" might be fungible terms. Having learned and practiced most of my English in the 20th Century could make be backward as to some current usage, but I do not believe I'm too far off. – J. Taylor Feb 5 '17 at 15:07
  • It's a more literary rather than a newer style. But it defeats the 'appositives are regularly offset by eg pairs of commas' prescription. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 5 '17 at 23:31

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