Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, etc.

“Firstly,” “secondly,” and “thirdly” are part of the English language. Yet somehow, many people think they’re ridiculous and pretentious. 

Should you continue using these ordinal adverbs? Or should you start looking for an alternative term? This guide has everything you need to know, plus a list of synonyms of these time connectives!

“Firstly,” “secondly,” and “thirdly” are superfluous terms. “First,” “second,” and “third” are more acceptable words for enumerating text in writing. Experts also prefer “first” even if the other items state “secondly” and “thirdly.” 

For example: “First, check if the communities are aware of the present issue.

What Kind of Connectives are Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly?

“Firstly,” “secondly,” and “thirdly” are ordinal adverbs and time connectives that join phrases and sentences. Their counterparts, “first,” “second,” and “third” are also ordinal adverbs that English experts consider more acceptable. For example:

  • Good: Firstly, the current community for developers will propose an entrepreneurial workshop for the residents.
  • Better: First, the current community for developers will propose an entrepreneurial workshop for the residents.

Is “Firstly” a Real Word?

Yes, “firstly” is a real word. It’s a correct way to start your sentences when enumerating specific points. For example:

  • Firstly, the international language teacher assessed the most commonly used dialect within the online community. 

However, the “first” sequence is more acceptable because it’s already an adverb even without the suffix “-ly.” Language experts like Webster and Johnson think that “first” should be an irregular adverb and “firstly” should be incorrect.

There’s another reason to use the ordinal adverb “first” instead of “firstly” in your traditional sequence. The following numbers may sound pretentious and silly to use, such as “seventhly” and “ninthly.”

When to Use “At First”

“At first” is not an alternative for “firstly” or “first” since it doesn’t enumerate topics in discourse. Instead, the phrase refers to “in the beginning” or “at the beginning.” For example:

  • Correct: At first, I thought I had no chance to win the race.
  • Incorrect: Firstly, I thought I had no chance to win the race.

The correct statement means the speaker initially thought they had no chance to win the race. If “firstly” is used instead of “first,” it assumes that there is a next point that a speaker will discuss.

  • Correct: First, turn on your modem.
  • Incorrect: At first, turn on your modem.

“First” is the correct term to use in determining the steps to connecting to the internet.

Is “Thirdly” Allowed?

You may use “thirdly” in your writing when enumerating key points. But as Johnson and Webster explained, “third” is preferable and less pretentious. For example:

  • Good: Thirdly, the socioeconomic background of learners affects the quality of education they receive.
  • Better: Third, the socioeconomic background of learners affects the quality of education they receive.

Is There a Word “Fourthly”?

As with “thirdly,” “fourthly” is correct but may not be acceptable for pedants. A safer option is the adverb “fourth.” For example:

  • Good: Fourthly, I want to learn about their tangible and intangible culture.
  • Better: Fourth, I want to learn about their tangible and intangible culture.

Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly Alternatives

Some synonyms of the superfluous words “firstly,” “secondly,” and “thirdly” include:

  • “Next,”
  • “Then,”
  • “In addition.”
  • “Additionally,”
  • “My second reason is that…”
  • “My last example is…”
  • “Finally,”

You may also use a variety of sequences to avoid being redundant. For example:

  • Firstly,… Second,… Third,…
  • First,… Secondly,… Thirdly,…
  • First,… Secondly,… Third,…

Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly in a Sentence

Firstly, the report provides a basic overview of the industry including its definition, applications, and manufacturing technology. Then, the report explores the international major industry players in detail. (Yahoo)

The issue HR faces is two-pronged. Firstly, we need to put into place actionable ways to empower more black women to reach the top. Secondly, we need to tackle the racism they experience when they get there. (People Management)

For starters, the next generation of the 7 Series will arrive in the United States with inline six, V8 and pure EV power, and there’s a 50-mile plug-in hybrid to follow them up next year. Secondly, it will be pre-equipped to deliver Level 3, eyes-off, hands-off driver assistance technology. Thirdly, it’s the first time, BMW admits, that it has ever really bothered to focus on rear-seat luxury and comfort. (Auto Blog)

More Enumeration Tips

“Firstly,” “secondly,” and “thirdly” are correct ordinal adverbs, but they aren’t your best choices when enumerating key points. Try changing them into their synonyms, “first,… second,… third,…” “then,” or “additionally.” Another alternative is to use a numbered or bullet point list.

Would you still use “firstly,” “secondly,” and “thirdly” in your writing?