Usage and Grammar

Q. I have noticed that the adjective “archival” is frequently used as a noun. For example, “How do we proceed with the archival of last year’s documents?” A search on for the phrase “archival of” reveals that as many as 17,000 sites use the phrase in this way. Is this an acceptable usage?

A. Such usage might seem reasonable in the face of popular practice. And, to complicate matters, the legitimate noun form retrieval often occurs in the same context (e.g., the retrieval of information from an electronic archive). But according to several dictionaries, the word archival can properly be used only as an adjective. Unlike retrieve, which is only a verb, archive is both a noun and a verb. It is important to reserve archival as an adjective. When it is a matter of making or adding to an archive, then, write archiving.