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I have a question about the usage of transitional phrases in the sentence

  1. The project will help us to build stronger links to some German universities, first of all the University of Bonn, but also Humboldt State University and possibly other institutions.

I could formulate sentence 1 in the following way with slightly different meaning

  1. The project will help us to build stronger links to some German universities, in particular the University of Bonn and Humboldt State University.

However, I would like to show in the sentence that it is the University of Bonn which is the most important for us, and other universities are less important.

How can I do so? Is the first sentence correct?

  • 1
    How about: ..., including Humboldt State University, and more importantly the University of Bonn. – Damkerng T. Feb 22 '15 at 14:39
  • Contextually, first of all isn't great here. In particular (or primarily) is fine. – FumbleFingers Feb 22 '15 at 19:22
  • In the example sentences, does "Humboldt State University" mean the college in California? If so, it is not a German university. – Jasper Feb 22 '15 at 20:08
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The simplest, clearest way is to make the emphasized item the object and then supplement it with the list:

The project will help us to build stronger links to the University of Bonn and possibly other German universities, such as Humboldt State University.

The project will help us to build stronger links to the University of Bonn, as well as to Humboldt State University and possibly other German universities.

The project will help us to build stronger links, possibly to the University of Bonn, possibly to other German universities such as Humboldt State University.

Notice the asyndeton in the last example. If you add "and" before the second "possibly", that will tend to make all the German universities except for Bonn, taken together, equal in importance to Bonn. The word "and" can suggest that what follows is an afterthought, especially, in this sentence, if you say "and possibly to". Omitting "and" suggests even less importance as a distinct item. However, context—the reader's prior expectations about what should be important—can reverse this interpretation. If the reader already knows that Humboldt is the most important, the sentence will read as "saving the best for last", with "and" adding more ceremony and thus more importance.

You can offset the emphasized item by separating it with a comma and a little phrase to build up to it:

The project will help us to build stronger links to some German universities, such as the University of Bonn, as well as Humboldt State University. [The emphasis here can actually be read either way, depending on the reader's expectations.]

You can explicitly indicate emphasis with a word like "especially". This is such a strong difference in emphasis, it may be overdoing it:

The project will help us to build stronger links to some German universities, especially the University of Bonn, and also Humboldt State University.

The reflexive "own" or "very own" makes emphasis. This version only makes sense if some special relationship with the University of Bonn is already established:

The project will help us to build stronger links to some German universities, including our very own University of Bonn as well as Humboldt State University.

If preceding context has already established the importance of the University of Bonn, you can emphasize it with "itself":

The project will help us to build stronger links to some German universities, including the University of Bonn itself and Humboldt State University.


By the way, Humboldt State University is my alma mater, and it's in Northern California. You probably mean Humboldt University of Berlin. But please don't edit your question, because this illustrates an extreme form of indicating low importance: getting the name partly wrong! (Not recommended in formal writing. It's actually insulting.)

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The project will help us to build stronger links to some German universities, especially the University of Bonn, but also Humboldt State University and possibly other institutions.

especially: To an extent or degree deserving of special emphasis; particularly

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