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I found this sentence on a news site -

The Watchdog chases wrongdoing but also admires right doing.

This tickled my fancy! I know the noun wrongdoing but then why not rightdoing as a single word? If we make it a single word, it'll change from a verb phrase(?) (two words) to a single word noun!

My homework -

No dictionary lists the word 'rightdoing'. But...

I searched and found only one instance in COCA

What could be more patronizing than the refusal to blame people for their wrongdoing and to praise them for their rightdoing, and to ground this refusal in our assumption that these people have not caused their own acts or had a hand in forming their own character.

Now the question -

Is rightdoing an acceptable noun? Or it's used, as in first example, only as verb phrase ('right' followed by 'doing')?

Note: I'm not sure about calling that as a 'verb phrase' and would like to have it edited, if needed. Nevertheless, I'm concerned about using the word 'rightdoing' as a noun/single word.

  • I bet you could tickle some fancies with this over at English Language & Usage! – Nick Stauner Jan 9 '14 at 13:04
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    @NickStauner Thanks my friend but then I was initially knocked-down by the contributors there and was kicked in here! :) Don't take this seriously ;) – Maulik V Jan 9 '14 at 13:06
  • Pshhh...snobs. xD – Nick Stauner Jan 9 '14 at 13:07
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    I like it without the space. It makes the parallel with wrongdoing clear. – snailboat Jan 9 '14 at 14:12
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    @Maulik: I think you effectively answered your own question by saying it tickled your fancy (presumably, because you recognised it as an unusual/non-standard usage). NGrams, for example, finds plenty of instances of their wrongdoing, but it just returns "not found" for the (largely, "hypothetical") corresponding form their rightdoing. – FumbleFingers Jan 9 '14 at 15:01
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Here's a sort of popular vote by internet usage: Google hits for "rightdoing" = 75,900 as of the time of this post. Notable usages include a published book title, a more modern published article, and a quoteworthy quote. Can't find it in any dictionaries myself (besides urbandictionary!), but that doesn't mean a native speaker like me would see any reason to object. (In fact, I wouldn't!)

P.S. I should add that I can't compare the hits for "right doing" because they might appear in the middle of a larger sentence like, "I don't feel right doing my comparisons like that," in which case it's not just one noun; doing becomes a separate verb.

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    +1 for authentic sources with links. Nevertheless, don't believe Google's SERPs. It's more mechanical than human! – Maulik V Jan 9 '14 at 13:01
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    Results in COCA: 2007 for wrongdoing versus only 1 for rightdoing. Here's the text of the sole example (from 1994): "What could be more patronizing than the refusal to blame people for their wrongdoing and to praise them for their rightdoing, and to ground this refusal in our assumption that these people have not caused their own acts or had a hand in forming their own character?" – snailboat Jan 9 '14 at 14:40
  • @snailplane I already quoted the instance – Maulik V Jan 9 '14 at 16:09
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Someone is trying to create a new word.

You are certainly free to use such a new word in your own writing if you think it is appropriate. In general, don't expect other people to know what such a word means. In this case, the meaning of the word is fairly obvious from its parts, so you could probably use it without explanation. In cases where it is not obvious you should give a definition or a context that makes the meaning clear.

If you are writing something that has to be approved by others, like if you are writing a paper for a class or if you must submit what you are writing to an editor, that person may not approve of the new word. I'd avoid using a new word in such contexts unless you have a good reason to do so. For example, a name for a new invention can save you from having to repeatedly describe the new invention. Or if the point of what you are writing is to discuss the idea described by the new word.

Bear in mind that most attempts to create new words fail and the word does not catch on. So if you use such a new word, for a short period of time your writing may seem "trendy", but within a few years (or days) it becomes very obviously dated. Anyone who reads your book or article instantly says, "Oh, this must have been written in the 80s" or whenever.

If I had to place a bet, I'd guess that "rightdoing" will not catch on. I don't know of any other single word that means the same thing, but the idea is easily expressed with two words: "doing right" or "doing good". So the word has only a small amount of usefulness. I see the point, it's cute, but probably not durable.

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