I found the following sentences in many English Writing books for exams like TOEFL:

First and foremost, ...

Second, ...

Third, ...

Last but not least, ...

However, my grammar software points out that there are clichés:

First and foremost -----> First / Primarily

Last but not least -----> Finally yet importantly

Since the books are written by those who are not native speakers, I am not sure if they are right. Could you please tell me which is better?

  • 3
    It’s good advice. Not so good suggestions. I’d strongly recommend avoiding “Finally yet importantly”. And I’d stay away from “Primarily” to start a list as well.
    – Jim
    Jun 8, 2017 at 3:23
  • 2
    It's purely a matter of style.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 8, 2017 at 3:26
  • 2
    My wife's IELTS and TOEFL books are chock full of subtly awkward English. That said, the examples you quoted are not bad. "Finally yet importantly" is worse - that's something I'd expect to see in a TOEFL book :)
    – dbandstra
    Jun 8, 2017 at 5:30

3 Answers 3


'First and foremost' and 'Last but not least' are phrases that are used in addressing a formal speech or a formal text. They are not wrong. The software that you are using probably check clichés of words with similar meanings, because 'first' and 'foremost' are synonyms, same in other case.


"First", "Primarily", and "First and foremost" are similar but are not exactly the same.

First - simply ordinal. No measure of importance
Primarily - Most important or largest, no measure of order.
First and foremost - First in both order and importance. Used to emphasize importance.

What did I do today? First I went to school, then I met some friends at the library. Finally, I went home for supper.

What did I do on vacation? Primarily, I just sat in a chair on the beach and read, but I did go swimming a few times too.

Why shouldn't you date John? First and foremost, he's abusive and put his last girlfriend in the hospital. He also can't keep a job and has bad breath.

As for "last but not least", it's a little cliche but not terrible. "Finally yet importantly" is extremely awkward and I would definitely not consider it an improvement over "last but not least"


Neither is 'better', there are times to use each of them. Using a cliche like last but not least is more entertaining for most readers, but writers such as Ernest Hemingway would say that it is too wordy and favour a more simple phrase.

Whatever software you're using (I know Microsoft word does) has a feature for marking superfluous language. But this is purely a style consideration, and while I personally usually turn that feature on it definitely isn't for everyone (some writers have an exceptionally 'flowery' writing style, but it works well for them).

As mentioned in the comments, finally yet importantly and using primarily to start a list are super weird.

  • Regarding this topic, is it appropriate to use 'Finally yet importantly' in an IELTS or TOEFL writing? @Omegastick Nov 7, 2018 at 18:35
  • 1
    @EHSAN.KH - "super weird" would be a good indication that this would be a phrase to avoid.
    – J.R.
    Nov 7, 2018 at 21:14
  • @EHSAN.KH As J.R. said, no. While it's grammatical and gets the point across, it's a huge giveaway that the writer is non-native.
    – Omegastick
    Nov 8, 2018 at 1:24

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