Mail Merge Using an Excel Address List

Mail Merge Basics

Very simply, mail merge is the process of taking the addresses you have stored in one place and inserting them into letters, envelopes, or labels in Word. For this demonstration we will be using a simple form letter and a set of 4 names and addresses in an Excel spreadsheet.

The Letter...

Once you're comfortable with mail merge you will develop your own start process but for now let's follow mine. First open Word, make sure the 'no spacing' is selected in the Styles section, and type a very simple letter. In the upper left corner type the date, go down 4 spaces and type the word 'address', go down 2 spaces and type the word 'dear', go down 2 spaces and type the body of the letter.

Where is Mail Merge?

Once your letter is ready place your cursor is in front of the word 'address' then go up to the ribbon and select the tab 'Mailings'.

Notice that when you first select the 'Mailings' tab only 4 items are enabled: Envelopes, Labels, Start Mail Merge, and Select Recipients. The others will become enabled as they become options.

Start Mail Merge

To begin click the little black arrow by the option 'Star Mail Merge'.

This will give you a mini menu of more options. Since we are doing a letter, select 'letters'.

What Happened?

At this point it appears as though nothing has happened or is happening. That's not the case. You've told the program that you want to do a mail merge and that you're going to be using the merge in a letter. Remember that a computer needs instructions in order to complete a task and that's what we're doing, giving it instructions.

Select Recipients

Now we have to tell the program where it can find our addresses. On the ribbon, click the little black arrow beside the 'Select Recipients' icon.

We are going to be using an Excel spreadsheet that has 4 addresses on it. The mini menu under 'Select Recipients' has 3 options. The first is 'Type New List'. This option sort of defeats the purpose of mail merge so I've never used it. The second is 'Use Existing List'. This is the one that will take the information from an external source and pull it into mail merge. Again, we will be using an Excel file but you could also use a CSV file. A CSV file is a file of comma separated values and is the type of file you get when you save your contacts from your mail server. Notice the third option 'Select from Outlook Contacts'. If you are using Microsoft Outlook and keep your addresses there, then this is the option to use. For today, we're going to be selecting the second option 'Use Existing List'.

Find and Open the Addresses

As soon as you click 'Use Existing List' a dialog box will open allowing you to search your files for the one that contains the list of addresses you will be using.

Find the file, select it, and click 'Open'.

This opens the 'Select Table' dialog box.

This dialog box lists the individual sheets in the workbook you have selected. The spreadsheet I want to use is on sheet 1 of the workbook so I would just click 'OK'. However, if you have a multi-sheet workbook you need to make sure you select the sheet that contains the information you want to import into your document.

Edit Recipient List

This is where you can pick and choose who will receive your letter. If the list you're using only contains the names of the people you are contacting, then you can skip this step. Otherwise, click on 'Edit Recipient List' icon.

This will open the 'Mail Merge Recipients' dialog box. Select the recipients by placing or removing the check mark from the little box next to each name. Then click 'OK'.

Once again it will look as though nothing has happened. DO NOT start clicking on buttons because you think something is wrong. Nothing is wrong. Just keep following the instructions.

The Address Block

This is where all our work comes together. Click on the 'Address Block' icon and the 'Insert Address Block' dialog box appears.

Inside this box you can determine how you want your addresses displayed. The items selected on the photo are the system defaults which I usually leave alone. However, if I wanted to change the name to include a Mr., Mrs., or Ms. then I would select that options in the upper left hand box. If you want to use an honorific then it has to be in your imported list. Mine has none so even if I selected that option, it wouldn't display.

On the right hand side is a box showing how the address will appear on your letter. If the address isn't displaying correctly it could be because of title mismatches. To check for that click on the button in the lower right corner 'Match Fields'.

In this dialog box you can adjust which fields in the spreadsheet are used for the required fields in the Address Block. The easiest way to avoid this particular problem is to make sure your field names always match. Always remember that every time you have to make an edit you have created an opportunity for an error to occur. Here we only have 4 names but most businesses will have hundreds.

Once you are finished editing, click 'OK'. If you have made no corrections, click 'Cancel'.

Your Letter with the Address Block

As soon as you click 'OK' on the 'Insert Address Block' you will be returned to your letter with <<Address Block>> in front of the word 'address'. Remember the word 'address' was just a placeholder so now delete the word. That should leave you with just the Address Block.

Add a Greeting Line

At this point your address is in place. Now we need to add a greeting line. Place your cursor in front of the word 'dear' and click on the 'Greeting Line' icon.

This will open the 'Insert Greeting Line' dialog box. Here you have the option of how you want to address the recipients. You can also opt use a generic salutation. The photo displays the default options created by the system. For our letter we want it a little more personal so we want to change the display to just show the first name.

Notice that when I selected just the first name in the 'Greeting Line Format' box the display of how my letter will look also changed. When you are satisfied, click 'OK'

Once the <<GreetingLine>> is in your letter, remove the word 'dear' the same way we did with the 'address'. Now we have an Address Block and a Greeting Block in our letter. These blocks will pull the names and addresses off our spreadsheet and place them into the letter at the appointed places.

Preview Results

Now it's time to preview our results and make sure we've done everything correctly. Move your cursor over to the 'Preview Results' icon and click.

If we've done everything correctly, you should see the first name on the list show up on the letter. So the letter should now show

If it doesn't, just remove the Address Block and the Greeting Block and redo them. One common error is forgetting to select the 'No Spacing' style before you begin.

Finish and Merge

We are now ready to complete the mail merge process. Move the cursor over to the 'Finish and Merge' icon and click the little black arrow.

There are three options on the mini menu, 'Edit Individual Documents', 'Print Documents', and 'Send E-mail Messages'. I always select the 'Edit Individual Documents' option. It gives me one last chance to make sure everything is correct before going to the printer.

Save Your New Document

Once you have selected 'Edit Individual Documents' a new document is created called Letters1. The first thing that needs to be done is to save this document. Go to the File menu and select Save As and save the new document that contains all the letters created by the mail merge. I saved this document as MailMerge01 as you can see at the top of the photo and, as you can see, a letter exists for all four of the recipients.

Once this document is saved, close it. The base document will still be there. If you have no further use for it close it without saving. If you plan to use the letter again sometime then save it. You have now completed a mail merge.

The short video below will show you a faster paced sequence of steps. Once you've done mail merge a few times the whole process should take less than five minutes. Good luck, enjoy working with mail merge, and if there are any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

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