Get over your initial reaction to grammar with these handy hints from Tim Bowen

Apart from its main use as an adjective, initial can also function as a noun and, more rarely, as a verb. 

As an adjective, it can only be used in the pre-nominal position and its main use is to mean ‘happening at the beginning of a process or when you first see or hear about something’, as in ‘At the initial stage of the project, not everyone had access to a computer’ or ‘When I heard the news, my initial reaction was to panic’. It can also be used to refer to the first of several things, as in ‘There is an initial charge of twenty pounds’. 

The noun initial normally refers to the first letter of someone’s name, especially their first name, as in ‘OK, your surname is Smith but what’s your initial?’ In the plural form, initials are the first letters of both or all the names of a particular person, as in ‘When I was fourteen, I carved my initials on a tree in the park’ or ‘He carries a leather case with his initials stamped on it’. 

If you initial a document, you write your initials on it to show that you agree what it says, as in ‘Please initial each page of the contract and then sign and date it on the last page’. 

The adverb form initially can be used in the same way as originally to mean ‘at the beginning’ and can either be placed at the beginning of the sentence or before the last part of the verb, as in ‘Initially I had intended to invite them to lunch’ or ‘I had initially intended to invite them to lunch’.