12 Alternatives to “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly” in an Essay

Essays are hard enough to get right without constantly worrying about introducing new points of discussion.

You might have tried using “firstly, secondly, thirdly” in an essay, but are there better alternatives out there?

This article will explore some synonyms to give you other ways to say “firstly, secondly, thirdly” in academic writing.

Can I Say “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly”?

You can not say “firstly, secondly, thirdly” in academic writing. It sounds jarring to most readers, so you’re better off using “first, second, third” (removing the -ly suffix).

Technically, it is correct to say “firstly, secondly, thirdly.” You could even go on to say “fourthly” and “fifthly” when making further points. However, none of these words have a place in formal writing and essays.

Still, these examples will show you how to use all three of them:

Firstly, I would like to touch on why this is problematic behavior.

Secondly, we need to discuss the solutions to make it better.

Thirdly, I will finalize the discussion and determine the best course of action.


  • It allows you to enumerate your points.
  • It’s easy to follow for a reader.


  • It’s very informal.
  • There’s no reason to add the “-ly” suffix.

Clearly, “firstly, secondly, thirdly” are not appropriate in essays. Therefore, it’s best to have a few alternatives ready to go.

Keep reading to learn the best synonyms showing you what to use instead of “firstly, secondly, thirdly.” Then, we’ll provide examples for each as well.

What to Say Instead of “Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly”

  • First of all
  • To begin
  • First
  • One reason is
  • Second
  • Continuing on
  • Next
  • Then
  • In addition
  • Third
  • Finally
  • To wrap up

1. First of All

“First of all” is a great way to replace “firstly” at the start of a list.

We recommend using it to show that you have more points to make. Usually, it implies you start with the most important point.

Here are some examples to show you how it works:

First of all, I would like to draw your attention to the issues in question.

Then, it’s important that we discuss what comes next.

Finally, you should know that we’re going to work out the best solution.

2. To Begin

Another great way to start an essay or sentence is “to begin.” It shows that you’re beginning on one point and willing to move on to other important ones.

It’s up to you to decide which phrases come after “to begin.” As long as there’s a clear way for the reader to follow along, you’re all good.

These examples will also help you with it:

To begin, we should decide which variables will be the most appropriate for it.

After that, it’s worth exploring the alternatives to see which one works best.

In conclusion, I will decide whether there are any more appropriate options available.

3. First

“First” is much better than “firstly” in every written situation. You can include it in academic writing because it is more concise and professional.

Also, it’s somewhat more effective than “first of all” (the first synonym). It’s much easier to use one word to start a list. Naturally, “second” and “third” can follow when listing items in this way.

Here are a few examples to help you understand it:

First, you should know that I have explored all the relevant options to help us.

Second, there has to be a more efficient protocol.

Third, I would like to decide on a better task-completion method.

4. One Reason Is

You may also use “one reason is” to start a discussion that includes multiple points. Generally, you would follow it up with “another reason is” and “the final reason is.”

It’s a more streamlined alternative to “firstly, secondly, thirdly.” So, we recommend using it when you want to clearly discuss all points involved in a situation.

This essay sample will help you understand more about it:

One reason is that it makes more sense to explore these options together.

Another reason comes from being able to understand each other’s instincts.

The final reason is related to knowing what you want and how to get it.

5. Second

“Second” is a great follow-on from “first.” Again, it’s better than writing “secondly” because it sounds more formal and is acceptable in most essays.

We highly recommend using “second” after you’ve started a list with “first.” It allows you to cover the second point in a list without having to explain the flow to the reader.

Check out the following examples to help you:

First, you should consider the answer before we get there.

Second, your answer will be questioned and discussed to determine both sides.

Third, you will have a new, unbiased opinion based on the previous discussion.

6. Continuing On

You can use “continuing on” as a follow-up to most introductory points in a list.

It works well after something like “to begin,” as it shows that you’re continuing the list reasonably and clearly.

Perhaps these examples will shed some light on it:

To begin, there needs to be a clear example of how this should work.

Continuing on, I will look into other options to keep the experiment fair.

Finally, the result will reveal itself, making it clear whether my idea worked.

7. Next

Generally, “next” is one of the most versatile options to continue a list. You can include it after almost any introductory phrase (like “first,” “to begin,” or “one reason is”).

It’s great to include in essays, but be careful with it. It can become too repetitive if you say “next” too many times. Try to limit how many times you include it in your lists to keep your essay interesting.

Check out the following examples if you’re still unsure:

To start, it’s wise to validate the method to ensure there were no initial errors.

Next, I think exploring alternatives is important, as you never know which is most effective.

Then, you can touch on new ideas that might help.

8. Then

One of the most effective and versatile words to include in a list is “then.”

It works at any stage during the list (after the first stage, of course). So, it’s worth including it when you want to continue talking about something.

For instance:

First of all, the discussion about rights was necessary.

Then, it was important to determine whether we agreed or not.

After that, we had to convince the rest of the team to come to our way of thinking.

9. In Addition

Making additions to your essays allows the reader to easily follow your lists. We recommend using “in addition” as the second (or third) option in a list.

It’s a great one to include after any list opener. It shows that you’ve got something specific to add that’s worth mentioning.

These essay samples should help you understand it better:

First, it’s important that we iron out any of the problems we had before.

In addition, it’s clear that we have to move on to more sustainable options.

Then, we can figure out the costs behind each option.

10. Third

Naturally, “third” is the next in line when following “first” and “second.” Again, it’s more effective than “thirdly,” making it a much more suitable option in essays.

We recommend using it to make your third (and often final) point. It’s a great way to close a list, allowing you to finalize your discussion. The reader will appreciate your clarity when using “third” to list three items.

Here are some examples to demonstrate how it works:

First, you need to understand the basics of the mechanism.

Second, I will teach you how to change most fundamentals.

Third, you will build your own mechanism with the knowledge you’ve gained.

11. Finally

“Finally” is an excellent way to close a list in an essay. It’s very final (hence the name) and shows that you have no more points to list.

Generally, “finally” allows you to explain the most important part of the list. “Finally” generally means you are touching on something that’s more important than everything that came before it.

For example:

First, thank you for reading my essay, as it will help me determine if I’m on to something.

Next, I would like to start working on this immediately to see what I can learn.

Finally, you will learn for yourself what it takes to complete a task like this.

12. To Wrap Up

Readers like closure. They will always look for ways to wrap up plot points and lists. So, “to wrap up” is a great phrase to include in your academic writing.

It shows that you are concluding a list, regardless of how many points came before it. Generally, “to wrap up” covers everything you’ve been through previously to ensure the reader follows everything you said.

Here are some examples to show you how it works:

To start with, I requested that we change venues to ensure optimal conditions.

Following that, we moved on to the variables that might have the biggest impact.

To wrap up, the experiment went as well as could be expected, with a few minor issues.