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Firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.

Because ordinal numbers (i.e., first, second, third, fourth, etc.) function as both adjectives and adverbs, the -ly adverbs firstly, secondly, thirdly, fourthly, and so on are superfluous. But despite the longstanding superstition against using them, these words are common in all types of writing, and there’s no need to avoid them. Where they become troublesome, however, is when the numbers get above fourthly or fifthly (seventhly? eleventhly? sixteenthly?).

In the first placein the second place, etc. are unnecessarily wordy. Onetwothree, etc. are even more informal than firstsecondthird, etc.

Examples

The slightly formal-sounding -ly adverbs appear often—for example:

Secondly, it cited strains in bank funding markets; thirdly, the economic slowdown, and its ability to cause further losses at banks, restricting their ability to give new loans . . . [Wall Street Journal]

Thirdly, it is important to understand all the features of a particular preferred issue. [Globe and Mail]

Thirdly, there is the worry that Col Gaddafi will defeat the rebellion or remain in power in Tripoli in a divided Libya. [Financial Times]

But the shorter and less formal ordinal numbers work just as well—for example:

And third, he doesn’t account for greater or lesser degrees of liberalism or conservatism. [New Republic]

Fourth, we urgently need to reform the Leaving Certificate and the CAO points system. [Irish Times]

And fifth, the easiest and most effective way to speculate on the price of oil is to leave the stuff in the ground, and there’s not a thing the American government can do about that. [The Economist]

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Comments

  1. Erorr. It is grammatically incorrect to start a sentence with “and”.

  2. jaibabaki says:

    great point.

  3. thebeerghost says:

    There is a need to avoid them. The improper use of ordinals makes one sound ignorant.

    • Isabel Lewis says:

      You’re missing a comma and you ignorantly separated that statement into two sentences. I presume this, at its best, was a failed attempt to emphasize the content of those sentences. If, however, your post had been written properly, the reader would have little need for an emphasis, that only comprises the integrity of the writing and ironically makes a grammatically incorrect statement. This, in general, makes you a hypocrite because your statements are disparaging to people who do not use grammar properly.To correct and prevent more of your arrogant hypocrisy, you should take note of this brief analysis of your poorly written post, Please note, this only cites some of the many errors you made in those two short sentences.

      Without prior reference to these “ordinals,” your first sentence becomes vague, unclear and improper. Also, it is clear that you attempted to use “there is a need” for emphasis which, without voiced tonal emphasis or italic, bold or underlined font loses its value. In a situation such as this, where the sentence is written and has no additional formatting options, using the proper adverb would create the desired effect.

      In your second sentence, you failed to provide what type of improper usage of these “ordinals makes one sound” ignorant. You further compounded to your grammatical errors by failing to mention what specific “ordinals” you were referencing. Those mistakes alone, make it unclear whether it is the improper use of ordinal directions in map making, or the improper use of ordinal numbers in math, etc., that “makes one sound ignorant.” “Makes one,” is, also, incorrect without defining, characterizing or referencing what constitutes as “one.” What your poor choice of words actually imply, by proper literary standards, is, “the improper use of ordinals makes an ordinal sound ignorant.” You did not mention people anywhere in that post, therefore, “one” does automatically imply “a person.” That is a common misconception people also use with the word “individual,” when they are being pretentious and trying to present themselves as intellectuals. Lastly, seeing as you failed to ever define what type of usage this statement is about, using “sound ignorant” is, also, another poor writing choice. A person would only “sound” ignorant if, that person was speaking when the person used ordinal numbers improperly. If, this person used ordinal numbers improperly in writing
      then, that person would “seem” or “appear to be” ignorant.

      You should try harder to create better sentences if, you feel the need to criticize people with an air of superiority, it would make you a less ignorant person. Clearly, people speak and write perfectly constantly and this arrogant statement you made was a prime example is one of those times. There are actually quite a few ways for you to correct this ignorant ironic comment, and even more ways that you could have avoided presenting your opinion so unpleasantly. Below this paragraph, are two examples that use a single sentence structure and two sentence structure, respectively to convey the message for which, you were generally aiming.

      The need to avoid using ordinal numbers improperly in conversations, is that it makes the speaker sound ignorant.

      or in better detail

      There definitely is a need to avoid using these adverbs. Using the improper words for ordinal numbers in a dialogue makes a person seem ignorant.

      Thanks for reading and, as a sidenote, I despise people like you who, come to websites like these just so you can run around online criticizing and condescending to everyone. Most of you people end up making just as many errors trying to show off when, half of the same people weren’t “A” students in English in high school, let alone, college. Really, you, and everyone like you need to stop, step back and go reread your textbooks and the reviews of your actual work from those classes. Maybe if you people did this, more often you would understand you aren’t experts and need to work a lot harder on your own grammatical skills before, being so nasty about how other people choose to communicate. I hope this helps you check yourself, next time, before you make such an ignorant comment, again.

      P.S. I don’t really care about my grammar because, at least, I actually took notes, listened and still remember most of the details about writing properly in my English classes. So, make whatever comments you want about my grammar, it isn’t my issue, I’m not sensitive about being proper.

      • Michaela Taylor says:

        Oh my goodness! Talk about a mountain-out-of-a-molehill response.

      • Man. I mean. Good answer but maybe spend your time doing something more productive. Like writing articles with your super good grammar! That guy was probably drunk when he wrote that comment and likely has no clue what you are talking about.

        • sabel, please find below a few examples of the many grammatical errors in your post:

          1. “To correct and prevent more of your arrogant hypocrisy, you should take note of this brief analysis of your poorly written post, Please note, this only cites some of the many errors you made in those two short sentences.” When two independent clauses are connected by only a comma, they constitute a run-on sentence that is called a comma splice. There should be a period after “post.” Please note Isabel, this only cites one of the almost innumerable comma-splices in your critique.

          2, “Those mistakes alone, make it unclear whether it is the improper use of ordinal directions in map making, or the improper use of ordinal numbers in math, etc., that “makes one sound ignorant.” You incorrectly placed a comma between “alone” and “make.” This “sentence” represents a a sentence fragment. A sentence fragment is a phrase that lacks a subject or verb that would enable it to function as an independent sentence. You did this many times.

          3. “You should try harder to create better sentences if, you feel the need to criticize people with an air of superiority, it would make you a less ignorant person.” You placed your comma in the wrong place, and you fused your sentence. This is the corrected sentence: You should try harder to create better sentences, if you feel the need to criticize people with an air of superiority. It would make you a less ignorant person.

          Isabel, I know you weren’t trying to sound superior. However, you sounded condescending. You acknowledged that you weren’t concerned about your grammar, but you totally annihilated thebeerghost. Quite honestly, I’m totally impressed that you were able to write so much about two short sentences. I bet you’re an expert at critiquing poems. I hope I didn’t offend you, but I saw it as an opportunity to highlight some common problems encountered by writers. I expect to receive criticism too, but I can handle it.

          Best regards

      • Isabel, please find below a few examples of the many grammatical errors in your post:

        1. “To correct and prevent more of your arrogant hypocrisy, you should take note of this brief analysis of your poorly written post, Please note, this only cites some of the many errors you made in those two short sentences.” When two independent clauses are connected by only a comma, they constitute a run-on sentence that is called a comma splice. There should be a period after “post.” Please note Isabel, this only cites one of the almost innumerable comma-splices in your critique.

        2, “Those mistakes alone, make it unclear whether it is the improper use of ordinal directions in map making, or the improper use of ordinal numbers in math, etc., that “makes one sound ignorant.” You incorrectly placed a comma between “alone” and “make.” This “sentence” represents a a sentence fragment. A sentence fragment is a phrase that lacks a subject or verb that would enable it to function as an independent sentence. You did this many times.

        3. “You should try harder to create better sentences if, you feel the need to criticize people with an air of superiority, it would make you a less ignorant person.” You placed your comma in the wrong place, and you fused your sentence. This is the corrected sentence: You should try harder to create better sentences, if you feel the need to criticize people with an air of superiority. It would make you a less ignorant person.

        Isabel, I know you weren’t trying to sound superior. However, you sounded condescending. You acknowledged that you weren’t concerned about your grammar, but you totally annihilated thebeerghost. Quite honestly, I’m totally impressed that you were able to write so much about two short sentences. I bet you’re an expert at critiquing poems. I hope I didn’t offend you, but I saw it as an opportunity to highlight some common problems encountered by writers. I expect to receive criticism too, but I can handle it.

        Best regards

      • Stephen Clark says:

        I assume this is a joke!….“spend your time doing something more productive” (below) is good advice.
        It would include not writing a response which is 12 times as long as the original article and 15 times more incomprehensible! [I imagine you have a difficulty with something being “more incomprehensible” since incomprehgsible is obviously an absolute

      • Maunesh Parab Dhuri says:

        Lol this is hilarious. Some folks literally make the virtual world their real life.

      • I’m sorry honey I can’t come to bed right now, someone on the Internet is wrong.

      • James Whistler says:

        Isabel, you don’t know what you’re bleating about.

    • Rachel Hengy says:

      See, comma error or not, I understood this to mean that if in doubt, drop the -ly and that way you don’t have to worry about the bigger numbers later on, as mentioned in the article.

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