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Important notice

Writing Tips has been archived and won’t be updated before it is permanently deleted.

For the most up-to-date content, please consult Writing Tips Plus, which combines content from Writing Tips and The Canadian Style. And don’t forget to update your bookmarks!

To begin your search, go to the alphabetical index below and click on the first letter of the word you are searching for.

first, firstly

First is the only form for the adjective.

  • The first European settlers in North America were Vikings.

First is also the preferred form for the adverb in most uses.

  • First, do no harm.

However, the adverb firstly can be used to begin lists and to enumerate statements, questions and topics.

  • Foodborne illness is caused by three main factors:
    • firstly, cooking or storing food at improper temperatures;
    • secondly, allowing cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods; and
    • thirdly, failing to practise good personal hygiene.