Bill Bennett

Bill Bennett

First, second, third

Remember when list posts were all the rage?

There’s nothing wrong with writing lists – especially when publishing online – so long as you don’t overdo it.

When the list items are short, you can use bullet points. Or, if the order is important, choose numbered bullets.

Both options make text easy to scan and read quickly.

Another, more elegant, approach is to write out your list using a variation on the following theme:

First, something happened. Second, something else. Next, we used a little elegant variation to make things more interesting. Then, we did this. Last, we finished up.

Use sparingly

Ideally a list written this way should have only a few points. Keep it to four or five at most. Six is pushing it. Seven is far too many.

When writing numbers this way you should spell out the words from first to ninth1 then write 10th, 15th, hundredth. You should never get as far as ninth.

Some people use firstly, secondly, thirdly and so on. While strictly speaking both approaches are grammatically correct, adding -ly is old-fashioned and unnecessarily fussy.

What’s more, you’ll end up looking silly if you want to deal with lots of items and reach eleventhly or even millionthly.

So, stick with the simpler format.


  1. or perhaps tenth. This depends on your taste or if you have one, your house style guide, but remember to stay consistent. ↩︎


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