I was asked to finsih a short piece of writing (200 words about my best friends).

Jan and I have some things in common, so I used Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, Finally in the writing.

Then, my English teacher (she is Korean) was not happy with that writing style, she told me that it was a bad writing because of the traditional sequence (Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly and Finally).

Could you tell me why?

  • Are you saying that she didn't like it because that sequence sounds "traditional"?
    – Em.
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:16
  • @Max "traditional" is one way to put it... I think that it's fair for an English language teacher to expect the students to use more advanced forms of writing. Starting every sentence with "firstly", "secondly", etc... is something that is commonplace with young children and I would applaud a teacher who discourages this style from their adult learners. Adults don't generally use this in formal writing.
    – Catija
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:21
  • 1
    It's just too much for 200 words. Firstly etc. is used for formal arguments not 200 words about one's friends.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:22
  • It may be difficult to guess at your teacher's intent without more context. As others have said, that kind of numbering can feel either juvenile or artificially formal, but she may have had a different problem with it.
    – Andrew
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:24
  • You wouldn't use Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, Fourthly in a love letter, unless maybe you were Commander Spock on StarTrek. Similarly, in a short essay about a friend, explicit enumeration is not an appropriate stylistic choice.
    – TimR
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:29

1 Answer 1


While probably not grammatically incorrect, there are two issues I can see.

First, you can use the words 'First', 'Second', 'Third', etc. on their own, making the 'ly' unnecessary. Saying 'Firstly', etc. sounds stuffy and old-fashioned.

Second, emphasizing the point-by-point nature of your friendship isn't the most appropriate treatment of the subject matter. As a matter of style, it would be nicer to simply take your reader on a description of your friendship without constantly reminding your reader they are on point #X of 4-point list. Enumerating your points is better for a complicated or formal argument (although even then it could be a little too much.)

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