Pre-, Post-, and Mid-

Today’s tip is a request from the Peanut Gallery. Justin writes:

“Any tips on how to write post as a prefix to a year? Do I write post 1978 or post-1978?”

Short answer: post-1978

We use a lot of different expressions to denote “before,” “during,” and “after.” We also use years and months as time milestones, so naturally we will want to combine the two for the purpose of setting the temporal stage before, during, or after a certain year or month. Here is how it is done.

Examples:

pre-1982

mid-June

mid-1900s

post-1978

In a previous tip, I shared that pre– and post– are normally joined prefixes, i.e., they are not hyphenated, except when the term is capitalized. In the case of pre– the hyphen is used if the next word starts with a vowel.

Capitalized Examples:

post-World War II

pre-Civil War

Vowel Examples:

pre-existing

pre-operative

It is therefore logical that the name of a year, such as 1978, would follow the same pattern as a capitalized proper name.

According to Grammar-Monster.com:

“It is suspected that, in the beginning, all prefixed words had hyphens. However, over time, some hyphens in words have disappeared. For most prefixed words, both versions exist (e.g., post-natal and postnatal). If you are unsure, use a hyphen. The hyphen version is very likely to be acceptable.”

A joined prefix is never used as a separate word before the one it modifies. Therefore “post 1978” would be incorrect.

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