Monday, 4 September 2017

First, secondly, thirdly, or...

When writing for a journal a few years ago, the editor would correct my sequence adverb from firstly, secondly and thirdly to first, second, and third. As a result, and not being sure of the rules myself, I had assumed that my usage was faulty.

However, I just ran across what the rules about the use of this type of adverb/adjective. Apparently, according to both Oxford and Cambridge, the correct use is "First, secondly, thirdly". However, as that rule is very old, since the seventeenth century (!) it has been quite acceptable to use "Firstly, secondly, thirdly" (Burchfield, 1998). So acceptable, that the use of "firstly" is now apparently considered to be more formal than using 'first' (Cambridge Dictionary, 21 July 2017).

Firstly, secondly, thirdly is just fine. As is first, secondly, thirdly. But not first, second, third. Now I know. 

Usage in this area is really about consistency. Oxford even have a lovely video about it all.

And, once we know the rules, it is all quite easy.



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