It is important to use transitional words to keep your writing clear and easy to read. But are the adverbs firstly, secondly, thirdly appropriate for formal and professional writing?
In this article, we’ll discuss when you can use these adverbs. Moreover, we’ll show you what to write instead of firstly, secondly, thirdly to keep your documents diverse.
Is It Correct to Say “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly”?
It is perfectly correct to connect sentences and paragraphs in your writing with firstly, secondly, thirdly. These ordinal adverbs are useful for work documents or instructions. They are also frequently used in academic writing for ease of reading in a thesis or essay.
However, some expert writers consider these phrases unnecessary. Others prefer that these adverbs are written as first, second, third without the “ly” suffix. It is also suitable to start your list with the first and then proceed with secondly and thirdly thereafter.
Essentially, whether you use these phrases is a matter of personal style and often depends on your intended audience.
Below, we’ve drafted three examples illustrating how you can use firstly, secondly, thirdly and the variation first, second, third in your writing:
Firstly, clients have expressed disdain for promotional emails in our surveys.
Secondly, research shows that only 12% of recipients read promotional emails.
Thirdly, our company has received more returning clients from alternative marketing measures.
First, we will design a website that exhibits the brand’s unique color scheme.
Second, we will update and import content from the client’s old website.
Third, we will hire content writers to produce new material based on the client’s current business structure.
First, we asked our participants a series of personal questions about their home lives.
Secondly, we recorded and categorized these responses.
Thirdly, we categorized our participants based on similarities between their answers.
Although the adverbs firstly, secondly, thirdly are a suitable way to connect points or sentences in academic and professional writing, they are a tad standardized.
Therefore, to mix up your writing and avoid repetition, you can try some of the alternative terms
12 Alternative Ways to Say “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly”
Below, you’ll find 12 other ways to say firstly, secondly, thirdly in your writing:
- To begin
- One reason is
- In addition
- The final reason is
1. To Begin
If you are setting out a series of actions in your paper, you can start with the phrase to begin. This is a more specific alternative to firstly since it refers to the start of a series of events or actions.
See how we’ve used this phrase in an example:
To begin, we delivered a survey to 15 participants.
Then, we recorded their responses in a database.
Finally, we developed an algorithm based on this data.
The word primarily literally means “mainly” or “for the most part.” Therefore, you can use this term to set out your points in order of pertinence, beginning with the most important one.
This is distinct from firstly, secondly, thirdly, which places no clear emphasis on any three of the points set out.
Have a look at the example below:
Primarily, Professor Merkle expressed concern at the similarities between Tate’s rhetoric and the confessions of those inmates she had interviewed over the years.
Furthermore, the professor pointed to the violent phraseology Tate often employed.
Lastly, she issued a warning that rhetoric of this nature, if left unchecked, could spur a dangerous cultural shift towards hegemonic masculinity.
3. One Reason Is
One reason is is a great way to start a detailed explanation of a particular phenomenon.
This makes it a great phrase in an academic paper or a work memorandum, as it allows you to make a statement and then provide evidence in an organized way.
In recent times, we have seen a notable decline in our shrew populations.
One reason is the unprecedented boom in tawny owl populations in the area.
Moreover, modern farming practices have rapidly impacted insect populations, which make up the shrew’s main diet.
Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, wildlife biologists have suggested that noise pollution has a direct impact on the heart rate and overall health of shrews, rodents, and even birds.
4. In Addition
You can use in addition to add another point at any time in your writing. This phrase can replace secondly, thirdly, fourthly, fifthly, or anything following your initial point. This makes it a highly diverse adverb.
Let’s see it in an example:
Primarily, Baldwin was known for his earlier novels and collections of essays.
In addition, he was a prolific activist during the civil rights struggle in America.
Later, he would publish a series of autobiographical pieces.
You can use next when you are describing a series of events or actions. Like the phrase above, this term is highly diverse and can replace any adverb after your introductory point.
To see this term in action, have a look at the following example:
First, they create classifications between people.
Next, they use symbols to identify people according to these supposed categories.
Then, the discrimination begins.
Moreover essentially means the same thing as in addition. Thus, it is used to add a further point at any stage in a discussion or description.
As such, it can replace secondly, thirdly, fourthly, or any other adverb following your introductory statement.
One reason is that these materials are inherently unstable.
Moreover, there are a plethora of more predictable products on the market.
Finally, the cost of repairing any damages from this instability is greater than the decreased initial cost of purchasing the more unstable materials.
You can use then at any stage after your initial point, especially if you are describing a series of actions or events taking place in chronological order.
See the example below:
To begin, we collected mushrooms from the local area.
Then, we studied each of our samples under a microscope.
Finally, we concluded that they were just normal mushrooms and were unlikely to cause a pandemic like that in The Last of Us.
Furthermore is another useful transitional word that you can use to add further points to a description or discussion.
This term is as diverse as moreover and can replace any adverb after firstly.
Check out the example below:
To begin, the goldfish showed no signs of distress or curiosity upon being placed in a larger tank.
In addition, it tended to occupy a small corner of the tank no larger than the bowl we found it in.
Furthermore, the increased tank size appeared to pose somewhat of a danger since the goldfish appeared to have a harder time finding the food we sprinkled into the tank.
You can use the term later when you are setting out how an event took place in chronological order. This phrase can replace any of the adverbs following your initial point since there is no limit to when, exactly, “later” is.
To begin, we filled several bottles with cola.
Then, we added the popping candy.
Later, we returned to the scene to find what can only be described as criminal property damage.
10. The Final Reason Is
The final reason is is a great way to conclude a series of explanations about a certain observable phenomenon.
As the wording of this phrase suggests, it should only be used at the end of your series of points, as it would not make sense to add any additional information after it.
Consider this example:
One reason is the evident overlap between people who report maladaptive daydreaming and those who report enjoyment of reading.
In addition, many readers experience immersion into the worlds of the novels they read.
The final reason is a tendency for normal people to equate normal daydreaming with that of a maladaptive nature.
You can end off a series of points with the term finally. Depending on the number of points you include all together, it will generally replace thirdly, fourthly, fifthly, or any adverb thereafter.
Let’s see it in an example:
To begin, we attached a small camera to a domesticated cat.
Next, we observed the cat’s comings and goings on a small monitor.
Finally, we found the area where the feline was hiding its kittens and several unfortunate pigeons.
Lastly is essentially a synonym for finally and you can use either of these phrases interchangeably. Therefore, you can use this phrase to close off a series of points.
Firstly, we had no access to the client’s files due to a software issue.
Secondly, the client was unable to speak to us directly due to their health.
Lastly, the client’s representatives were newly appointed; his previous ones had retired.