I often have to create documents that include a long list of reasons why a position in which I am in favor is the correct one. Reasons one through ten seem properly started with "Firstly," "Secondly," "Thirdly," etc. However, when I get to the teens, using the adverbial form of a number does not sound at all correct. When have you ever heard someone say, for example, "Seventeenthly, it is your fault because..."? Does anyone have a learned opinion about the correct way to attack this problem?

Thanks, Slowlearner
Hi Slowlearner,

The adverbial forms are spurious, and are falsely formal-- good style is satisfied with 'first, second, third'. If you find yourself having to deal with 'seventeenth', you would be much better served to simply use figures (1., 2., .... 17.) to mark off the points.
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Dear Slowlearner,

If your list is as long as 17, then it would be much better to simply number the list:

1. Apples are delicious;

2. I also like oranges;

3. Bananas tend to get over-ripe before I get round to eating them.


If you are doing a shorter list, say up to four points, then use either "first", "second", "third", fourth; or firstly, secondly if there are no more than two points.

Hope to help