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This will be the opening sentence for a book chapter, so please forgive me for being a little hypercritical here... And it's also an important statement:

'X' may be the most important invention in Computer Science, but most developers behave as if it didn’t even exist.

My question is: is there a better way to say "as if it didn’t even exist" in the sentence above? What's bugging me is the contraction, plus the sentence looks wordy and sounds convoluted to my simple ears.


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'X' may be the most important (and ignored) invention in Computer Science. – Elliott Frisch Apr 4 '14 at 18:13
'X' may be the most important invention in Computer Science, but most developers treat it dismissively. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 4 '14 at 19:07

Since the rest of your sentence is in present tense, you may be confusing matters by having didn't even exist instead of, say, doesn't even exist.

'X' may be the most important invention in Computer Science, but most developers behave as if it doesn't even exist.

It's like this because you're referring to the action of it not ever existing being directly related to its current status as being the most important invention. 'Didn't' would probably be more acceptable used in the following context:

'X' may have been the most important [...]

As if it had never existed might also be acceptable in its place.

[I always struggle with keeping tense consistent in writing.]

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+1 Thanks a million, makes me wonder how many times I may have committed the same mistake in the 13 chapters that come before this one! :( – rick Apr 4 '14 at 15:44
I made dozens of tense mistakes in my university coursework the first time around. Don't immediately take my word for it though - I've done the schoolboy approach of forgetting to show my work, mostly because I'm at work and don't have the immediate time to dedicate to researching sources. Someone with additional knowledge will probably come along any moment and provide a properly researched answer. – NinjaDuckie Apr 4 '14 at 15:47

...most developers ignore it.

...most developers are oblivious to it.

...only a few developers are aware of it.

Nice first sentence, but on the other hand you are also saying that most of your readers are dummies for not knowing the most important invention in their field.

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You might also want to consider:

"X" may be the most important invention in Computer Science, but most developers behave as if it never had been invented.

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You can say "doesn't" if you want, and very few would bat an eyelid. But, strictly speaking, your original version is correct, because your "as if" introduces a subjunctive. It's one of the peculiarities of the subjunctive to use the past tense to describe a condition existing in the present: as if he were.., and so on.

As for whether the sentence is "wordy", it doesn't strike me that way. Books about computer science are not noted for their conciseness and economy in the use of words. Your sentence is plain in its meaning, and not too long at all. But if pressed to make it one word shorter, I would remove "even".

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> Not in existence anywhere.

Sometimes there are associated specific definitions, and I was curious if Computer Science was indeed the topic

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