I’m going to make an argument for doing the unthinkable. I’m going to suggest something so hideous and so horrible that some of you will stop reading this post and immediately rush to twitter to tell me how wrong I am.
I am prepared.
Consider for a moment that “post apocalyptic” does not require a hyphen. I know! It does, but what if really, it doesn’t? What if writing “post apocalyptic” or “postapocalyptic” will not bring on the apocalypse? What if the hyphen is not required? What if four distinctly colored horses and four personifications of factors of social collapse will not suddenly appear, travel to your house and rush inside to punish you for your wicked wicked ways?
I understand why we hyphen words. We are supposed hyphen “two or more words that come before a noun and act as a single idea.” It’s one of the rules. Another rule is to “only hyphen words when it serves a purpose.”
I know what some of you are thinking.
“Post” is a prefix. Those rules don’t apply. It could be “postapocalyptic” but for some reason it’s not. Why not? Because, rules. A system of rules we need. We can’t just write “post” and not connect it to “apocalyptic” without a hyphen. It’s a prefix! It is not an independent word and anyone who doesn’t understand should have their computers taken away.
Yeah, okay, but what about their phones? Have you considered how tedious it can be to write “post-apocalyptic” fiction half a dozen times when you’re blogging about “post-apocalyptic” fiction while traveling? No, you only care about the rules.
Search engines can read “post apocalyptic” as “post-apocalyptic” and “postapocalyptic,” IF they are programmed to make that distinction, because it is a simple one. The hyphen does not change how we interpret the meaning.
So, what if the only reason to hyphen “post-apocalyptic” is because we reject the post-as-a-preposition argument? Truly desperate people sometimes attempt to classify “post” in this context as preposition just to avoid the hyphen.
They argue that “post” indicates a position in time just like the words “before” and “during.” It’s a valiant attempt to avoid switching screens from letters to symbols, but could we really substitute it for an actual preposition?
“What are you doing post you finish your writing this morning?”
“Did you want coffee during or post the movie?”
It’s post modern grammar! Yay for grammar deconstruction. Now, no one can be sure what to write.
No, it just doesn’t work and it doesn’t rule out “postapocalyptic” as the obvious evolution of the term for common use. In fact, I have noticed – many times – that my spell check doesn’t recognize “postapocalyptic” without a space. And isn’t that the real reason people cling to the hyphen? It can’t be “post apocalyptic,” because prefixes AND who can tolerate the red underline? A whole document with underlines, even if correct, pain some writers.
Believe it or not hyphen-lovers, but “postapocalyptic” is popping up all over more reputable publications for a good reason. It’s indisputably more justifiable than “post apocalyptic” or “post-apocalyptic” given the almighty rules of grammar and the increased use of the term.
And I’m sure if you read this far, the logic behind dropping the hyphen is getting more clear. But, I believe it’s as much of a mistake as starting a sentence with a conjunction. Which I love. But, let’s discuss the rise of “postapocalyptic” as the most correct way to write what started as “post-apocalyptic.”
Not all search engines on all websites are created and maintained as meticulously as Google or Bing. In many instances, word substitutions have to be established. That applies to automated library systems, online databases, book vendors, sites for movie reviews… many online resources simply have not been programmed to recognize that “post apocalyptic” = “postapocalyptic” = “post-apocalyptic.” Even if it is possible, site administrators may have higher priorities than sorting out the millions of interesting details of communication. Or worse, they may even assume the substitution has been established when it hasn’t.
Yet, does the term “postapocalyptic” differ in use from the apocalyptic? NOT ENOUGH. Trust me. I write books that take place 500 years after the apocalypse. I’ve been told I should call them dystopian fiction, because too many people feel apocalyptic fiction starts 5 mins before the end of the world and “post-apocalyptic” fiction starts 5 mins post. And they do so, because “postapocalyptic” sounds more smart. More mysterious. It’s deeper. Ten minutes of profundity. In sum, people search for “postapocalyptic” books when they actually want “apocalyptic” work.
Though no rules of grammar can support it, I typically use “post apocalyptic” rather than the spaceless and hyphened alternatives. Though offensive and unjustifiable, it is the most technologically compatible expression of the term as it accommodates the greatest number of fools. Also, it appeals to rebellious, artistic side.
I believe the rules of grammar should adjust to accommodate computational linguistics, laziness and sloth. As the generation that never learned cursive matures, we need to create new rules to justify typing “post apocalyptic” rather than petitioning our software writers to remove the red lines.
Surely if a species does not adapt, it’s apt to perish in a blur of famine, pestilence, war and death, right? So, let’s consider the unthinkable. Adopt one main rule:
The primary function of grammar is to improve communication.
Should we not consider how people communicate? Do we not communicate with the computer as well as through them?
We can say no to a hyphen and leave the space. We don’t have to spell “knight” with letters wholly and totally divorced from being able to read it aloud. We can make our language make sense. We are free to use our language for communication and not arbitrarily follow rules for the sake of rules…