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My colleague will have to present her report some time in this week. She wanted some preparation for the presentation and asked me to be her audience. In her presentation, she said:

Firstly, company A's annual income is at least 4 times more than Company B's. And then...

I asked her, "and...?"

I meant where are secondly and thirdly and so on? But she said, "That's all."

Referring to my colleague's sentences, is it grammatical to use "Firstly" alone without "secondly," "thirdly"? Or is it just an informal way to use "Firstly" this way?

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Firstly, the company A's annual income is at least 4 times more than company B's.

You can use either first or firstly as an adverb to introduce a statement that is the first in a series of statements. The use of firstly is more formal. Similarly, you can also use second, third, etc. instead of secondly, thirdly, etc. to refer to further points or statements.

As for the sentence presented by the OP, it's not appropriate to use first or firstly in the sentence as you have only one point to refer to, not a series of points.

  • Thanks Khan. If I understand it correctly, you meant it is not correct to use Firstly if there is only one point in her presentation, right? – kitty Oct 14 '15 at 19:25
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    Kitty, That's right grammatically. – Khan Oct 18 '15 at 14:09
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Is it grammatically correct?

Sure, why not?

I think what you meant to ask is: is it logically/semantically correct? To which the answer is "no" if there are no further points to make. However, your account does continue with "And then...", implying a second point, so "first" (not "firstly") could be justified if followed with "second" or "next".

But having only two points is weak justification for a numbered list. I'd advise starting with "Company A's annual income..."

Is it informal?

Yes, "firstly", whether or not it is followed by "secondly", is informal, and I would never council using it in a presentation.

  • I could not hear any words like "Second", "Secondly" in the presentation, but she used "Another point is that ..." – kitty Oct 13 '15 at 17:18

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