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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.

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    I like it without the space. It makes the parallel with wrongdoing clear.
    – user230
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 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. Commented Jan 9, 2014 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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    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?"
    – user230
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 14:40
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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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  • In most contexts, the preferred antonym for wrongdoing is probably righteousness. Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 14:35
  • @FumbleFingers, I loved your proposition! However, is it a proper antonym? wrongdoing seems to convey actions and behaviors; righteousness seems to convey a moral quality, perhaps as the result of some actions and behaviors. (I'm not a native English speaker)
    – Ricardo
    Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 13:47
  • Jay's answer was very insightful IMHO. Regarding the prediction, 6 years later and Google hits went from 75,900 to about 960,000 results
    – Ricardo
    Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 13:55
  • @Ricardo: "wrongdoing" is normally used as a generic / general-purpose "abstract" noun for "lawlessness". Not that its syntactic status is cast in stone, but we'd usually use the singular form even where in principle it references multiple acts of wrongdoing. A reformed criminal would more likely say My wrongdoing is all behind me now (singular) or My sins are all behind me now (plural). That doesn't mean My wrongdoings are all behind me now and My sin is all behind me now are syntactically invalid, or mean something different. They're just much less likely. Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 14:27

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