7. Addressing Letters with Mail Merge

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Address letters to a large mailing list of people using Mail Merge


Lesson Goal

Learn the basics of how to set up a mail merge in Word.

What is Mail Merge?

Mail Merge is a Word tool which can make multiple copies of a document, such as a letter. Each copy will be unique to a specific recipient stored in a separate spreadsheet.

For example, if we have a letter we want to send to 1,000 people on our mailing list, it would be very time consuming to make 1,000 different copies and type a different address and greeting on each copy. With mail merge we can almost instantaneously create the 1,000 copies, each one addressed to a different recipient on the mailing list.

Using the Mail Merge Wizard, we can set this up in 6 quick steps

Mail Merge Wizard: Steps 1 & 2

The 1st step is very simple. We need to choose the type of document. In this lesson, we’re using a letter, so we’ll select a letter.

The 2nd step is also very straightforward. We need to indicate which document contains the letter. For this lesson the letter is already open, so we selected Use the current document. Alternatively, we could have started from a different document or even a template.

Mail Merge Wizard: Step 3

For the 3rd step, we need to add the list of recipients. We can type this manually, import the list from our Outlook contacts or use an existing list stored in a separate file. For this lesson, we used a spreadsheet, so we selected an existing list. We then clicked browse and navigated to our Excel spreadsheet.

Once added, we can perform some quick data cleaning operations. We can sort, filter, find duplicates, find recipients and validate addresses.

The order isn’t important, so there’s no need to sort. We want to include all recipients, so there’s no need to remove any by filtering or finding recipients. Validating addresses requires additional software which most people do not have.

In this lesson we did have duplicates, so we used the filter duplicates tool to remove them.

Mail Merge Wizard: Step 4

In the 4th step, we need to insert our recipient data into the letter. We can use some of the preset formats in the mail merge pane or we can select more items to insert specific information from our recipient list.

Rather than inserting each address line individually, we can insert them all in a single address block. By clicking address block, we can see a window where we need to configure how the address is organized. To the left, we can choose the naming convention. To the right can choose the layout of the address block.

In this lesson, the address block initially only contained the postal code. This is because Word did not recognize the spreadsheet field names, so we had to click Match Fields to tell Word which columns in the spreadsheet corresponded to what type of address data. For instance, we had to match town to city and county to state.

With the address block arranged, we need to choose where to insert it in the document. Note that once inserted, we just see the words «AddressBlock». This is a temporary stand-in for the address data.

We can also add a greeting line. This greets the recipient by name and we can even configure what type of greeting appears when we don’t have a name. For example, “Dear sir/madam” or “To whom it may concern”. Once inserted, we’ll be able to see the stand-in text «GreetingLine».

Mail Merge Wizard: Step 5 & 6

The 5th step is also quite simple. Here the mail merge stand-in text is replaced with the recipient information. We can cycle through the recipients to get a good idea of how the mail merge will look.

To finish, the 6th step gives us the option of printing the mail merge right now or saving it to a new document. This new document will contain a copy of each letter, one for each recipient.


In the previous lesson, we learned how to use the symbol search tool to quickly find and insert symbols. In this lesson, we'll learn the basics of how to set up Mail Merge in Word.

Returning to the document from the previous lessons, we can see that the letter is almost ready to send.

Fetch Cuisine has a list of customers who've agreed to receive correspondence through the mail.

The customer address data is stored in an Excel spreadsheet.

Making a new copy of the letter for each customer would be extremely time consuming. Fortunately, we can use Word's Mail Merge functionality to speed up this process. We'll start by navigating to the Mailings tab in the ribbon.

There are a few mailing options here but we'll focus on Mail Merge.

We'll click the Start Mail Merge command dropdown and select Step-By-Step Mail Merge Wizard.

This opens the Mail Merge pane to the right of the document.

We can see at the bottom the words Step one of six.

For this step, we need to select the type of document that we're working on.

We'll ensure Letters are selected and move on to the next step.

In step two, we need to choose a document containing our letter.

We can choose to initiate Mail Merge from a different document or a template but we'll ensure "Use the current document" is selected.

For step three, we need to provide our list of recipients.

We have an existing list in an Excel spreadsheet so we'll keep this selected. Alternatively, we could use our Outlook contacts or manually type the recipients.

At this point, we can either click Browse or the Next Step link at the bottom of the pane to locate a file on our machine.

Our file is called Mailing Addresses.

In the Select Table window, we'll choose the output table.

This opens the Mail Merge Recipients window, which gives us a few options for refining our list of recipients.

The order of recipients is not important so we don't need to sort our list.

Filtering is useful for excluding certain recipients but we want to include everything so we'll ignore this.

We may have duplicates in this address book so we'll click Find Duplicates.

We can see that four recipients have duplicate records.

We'll deselect the duplicates and press OK to remove them.

If we want to remove specific recipients we can use Find Recipient to jump to them in the list where we can then uncheck them.

We can also validate the address if we have the appropriate software installed. We don't, so we'll leave this.

Moving on to step four. We have a few options for laying out our address data, including greeting lines and electronic postage.

We'll opt for the address block.

This is a standard layout for addresses.

At this point, we need to configure the address block.

We'll start by choosing a naming convention.

The default shows the first name, last name, and any additional elements.

We can also choose from some variants, such as the Larson family, but we'll stick with the first name and last name.

Next. We need to match the fields in our address block.

In this case, Word has correctly matched the fields for me but you may find that you'll often need to adjust these settings. We'll check the box below to remember this matching for future mail merges and click OK.

The preview of the address block now looks complete. So we'll click OK.

We can add other elements to this letter. We have a few other options in the Mail Merge pane. If we click More Items, we can insert specific data directly from our source.

Let's exit this window and replace the stand-in greeting line.

Here, we can select the naming convention as well as the convention for unknown recipients.

We'll choose to greet each person by their first name only, and then click OK to insert the greeting.

We also need to replace the stand-in text for the date. We could do this manually but instead, we'll use a date quick part.

We'll delete the stand-in text, navigate to the Insert tab, and click the Insert Date and Time command in the Text group.

We know that the recipients are based in the UK so we'll choose a European date convention of day, month, year.

We'll also ensure that the Update Automatically box is checked so that this always displays the current date. We'll then press OK.

We can now move on to step five.

Here, we can quickly review the mail merge by cycling through the recipients.

Everything looks good. So we'll move on to the final step.

Here, we can choose how to complete the merge.

We can print all copies of the letter right now or save them.

We'll choose the letter.

We'll click Edit individual letters and then click OK.

This opened a new document which includes every copy of the letter.

We can print it now or save it and print it later.

Let's stop the lesson here.

While you may not use Mail Merge often it's a very useful tool that can help you efficiently create form letters for a long list of recipients.

Advanced Tools in Word
Macros, Add-ins, and Mail Merge


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