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I have been wondering about this for sometime now.

I often hear people say two-parter. Is it correct/formal?

I want to describe a documentary movies consisting of three parts. Three-parter movie? How about a trilogy?

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One note about the answers below: to my ear, "this movie is a three-parter" sounds fine, but "this is a three-parter movie" doesn't. "Three-parter", in this context, works well as a noun, and using it as an adjective sounds wrong (again, to me). –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Feb 26 '12 at 8:34
    
In "This is a (...) movie" where's the need for er? "This is a three-part movie" should do? –  Kris Nov 2 '12 at 5:30
    
Three-part movie and trilogy are not the same. –  Kris Nov 2 '12 at 5:31
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3 Answers 3

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Definitely informal. More formal would be, "This is a three-part documentary," or "This week, we'll be airing a documentary, in three parts."

This follows general hyphenation rule #1, as shown at this website.

"My documentary is a three-parter" might be deemed acceptable as informal speech. ("Parter" is defined in a few dictionaries as "one who parts" - and it's even being flagged by my spell checker as I type this - so using it to describe a trilogy would be inappropriate, except in the case of informal slang).

Trilogy is defined as "a series of three dramatic or literary works." I suppose you could use it to describe a documentary, although the word usually connotes a fictional work, such as Lord of the Rings, at least in my mind.

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No, The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy! It is a single story. It has historically been published in one, three, and seven parts, but this is merely an accident of publishing and bookbinding. The story remains unitary.In contrast, Alexander Dumas’s D’Artagnan Romances were a trilogy comprising The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne. So too were Steven Brust’s tripartite Khaavren Romances: The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, and The Viscount of Adrilankha. And yes, the latter trilogy is a sort of homage to the former. –  tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 15:48
    
Can you clarify your last sentence? Lord of the Rings is not a non-fiction work. –  Roronoa Zoro Feb 26 '12 at 15:49
    
@Roronoa Zoro: Sorry, I meant fictional work; I've edited my post to correct my error. –  J.R. Feb 26 '12 at 16:54
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@tchrist: Perhaps The Lord of the Rings is a single story, but its film adaptation was put into 3 parts, so I'd still call it a trilogy. (Egads! for the love of Frodo, I don't want to debate this! I'm not alone; apparently, the Oxford Dictionary thinks Lord of the Rings is a great example for the word "trilogy." Other sites, such as amazon, and even LOTR.net don't have a problem with the trilogy label, either.) –  J.R. Feb 26 '12 at 17:05
    
@J.R. It was Professor Tolkien himself, not merely the author of the work in question but also the one-time sub-editor of the OED (which you did not cite), who insisted that The Lord of the Rings was “of course not a trilogy”. Far be it from me to disregard both his wishes and his learning in this particular matter in favor of general mass ignorance. It is a matter of sensitivity, reason, and respect to conform to his preferred usage about his own work — but if you choose to disregard all three, do as thou wilt. A trilogy cannot be one story; it must by definition be three. –  tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 18:05
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If you often hear people say it, then it must be part of the language. If we can call a bus a double-decker, then there seems to be no reason why we can't call a film a two-parter. Most discussions of films are likely to be in an informal context anyway.

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Two-parter:

1) may denote something "having two parts"

2) may imply "a situation that is uncharacteristically complicated, that takes a long time or a large amount of effort to resolve" Urbandictionary.

In both case, usage is informal.

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