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?

13 thoughts on “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, etc.”

    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
        • 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

          Reply
      • 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

        Reply
      • 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

        Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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