In crafting a "homemade" quotation, and after considerable time, I've come up with a few versions. I'm not sure, however, if any of them is correct grammatically, not to mention memorable stylistically. This task is not a school assignment. I simply like to craft my own quotations. This one happens to be the figure called antithesis. (You know, JFK's "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.")

The context is the difference between a sin of commission and a sin of omission, and the possible relationship between the two. Ordinarily, one might say in this regard, "A sin of commission is doing what you know is wrong, whereas a sin of omission is not doing what you know is right." That's fine as far as it goes, I guess, but there are other possibilities, too. To wit:

A. Failure to do the right thing is the gateway to success in doing the wrong thing.

B. To fail to do right is to succeed to do wrong.

C. Failing to do right is succeeding to do wrong.

D. To fail to do the right is to succeed in doing wrong.

E. Failing to do the right thing is succeeding in doing the wrong thing.

I've toyed with idea of using "failing in doing right" or "failure to do right," but they could sound as though someone tried doing the right thing, but failed, which is not a sin of omission. Any thoughts?

  • Not that anyone gives a flip (thanks for the down vote, whoever you are), but I've dropped the fail/succeed contrast and have come up with the following: "Not doing right and doing bad are flip sides of the same coin." Or, "Not doing good is akin to doing bad." Or, a la Charles Krauthammer, "Not doing good is the flip side of doing bad." (Krauthammer said, “The flip side of retrospectively savaging the loser is beatifying the winner”). – rhetorician Mar 15 '13 at 16:21

I don't recall where I first saw it but Failing to plan is planning to fail seems an extremely economical expression of what you want to convey. Its attraction lies in the skewed symmetry of the gerunds.

The difficulty you face is that failing-succeeding seems a suitable pair of antonyms but the noun form (success) does not work in a euphonious way. I suspect that you need to go right back to the beginning (thesaurus) and replace succeeding.

  • Not sure about "Failing to plan . . ." but I think you're right that "succeeding" should go. The following has lost the failing-succeeding locution, but it's nevertheless pithy: "What begins in not doing right often culminates in doing wrong." That way we have, on the one hand, "begins," "not doing," and "right," versus "culminates," "doing," and "wrong." Or how about, "To begin by not doing right, culminates in doing wrong"? Or, "What begins in not doing right, ends in doing wrong"? – rhetorician Mar 11 '13 at 20:50

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