How to do a Mail Merge in Microsoft Word 2013 – Part 1

Mail Merge is an important functionality in Word 2013, one that has improved across versions of Word but remains a difficult thing to do. Word provides a Mailings Tab which contains numerous groups and commands useful in Mail Merge, such as the Create, Write and Insert Fields, and Preview Results groups. A Mail Merge Wizard is also available, containing functions similar to the Mailing Tab. The wizard provides a six-step process for Mail Merge, the first four of which are selecting a Document Type, creating a document Letter/Message, defining Recipient Lists and Merge Fields, and entering Merge Fields into the document Message.

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Video transcripts:

Hello and welcome back to our course on Word 2013. In this section, we’re going to take a look at Mail Merge. Now you’ve probably heard of mail merge before. You may even have done mail merges before. And it’s one of the main applications of Microsoft Word in many offices and businesses around the world. Now progressively over versions of Microsoft Word, the mail merge facilities have been considerably improved both in terms of how flexible and powerful they are and in terms of how easy they are to use. But it is still the case that many people manage to find the mail merge a pretty difficult thing to do and do get in quite a bit of trouble with it. Now from the point of view of showing you how to do a mail merge, what I’m going to aim to do here is to take you through one or two very straightforward examples and then I think it’s very important that you practice some of those basic ones before you try to do anything too complicated yourself. As you go into the more complex possibilities within mail merge and I will mention some of these briefly as we go along, the basic procedures, the basic principle still apply. So it’s important to understand the basics first before you try to do anything too complicated. So in this section, I’m going to do a full but straightforward mail merge.

First of all, I’ve opened and empty blank document and click on Mailings and on the Mailings tab which we haven’t looked at so far, there are a number of groups and I want to quickly talk about those groups because to some extent they explain what a mail merge consists of. Basically, we can create various types of object to mail merge with. Let’s suppose you’ve got a list of customers and as part of your mail merge, you’re going to create an envelope for each customer to send a letter to. Well, this first group here, the Create Group, is a place where you can create envelopes. If you don’t use envelopes, if you’re doing something where you need to produce labels, then you’ve got an option here to create labels.


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Now in terms of actually starting the mail merge, that’s the button there. That’s the one we’re going to click at the moment. But before you really get started on the mail merge, you may want to setup a list of recipients. So again, let’s suppose you’ve got a list of customers that you’re going to send a mail out to. Let’s also suppose that in some way you need to filter your standard list of clients. So perhaps you’re sending something out to clients who are generally interested a particular type of product. So that’s where you select your recipients. That’s how you get the mail merge started.

This group in the middle, Write and insert fields, this is where we actually setup the fields in the document that we are going to merge. Now in order to explain this, I want to take a very simple example. Let’s suppose we’re going to just send a Happy New Year letter to all of our clients. All we really need to do in the letter is to put in the name of address of this client, probably a salutation like Dear Sir or Hello Jim or whatever it might be, and that’s pretty much it, but we want to write one letter and we’re going to mail it to hundreds or maybe thousands of clients and it’s going to look like a personal letter to each of those clients. Now those fields, that’s things like the salutation, the name of the client, and the lines of the address are what are called the Merge Fields and this is where we can control the fields. Now over here this group is the Preview Results Group. When we’ve setup the mail merge before, we actually run it to produce what may be hundreds or even thousands of letters or envelopes or labels, we want to preview it and make sure that it’s working okay. So that’s the preview area. And then right at the end we’ve got as you might expect a Finish Group. So this is basically where we sort of finish the job off.

Now having said that for this first example, I’m going to do the whole thing using what’s called the Mail Merge Wizard. And if we take this through in the Wizard steps which basically reflect the outline I just gave when I talked about the groups on the Mailings Ribbon, then that will further explain how the whole of a mail merge works in a typical but straightforward case.

So let’s start that mail merge. But before we do I’d just like to point out that I’ve not setup my recipients first. It’s often a good idea to setup the recipients first but we’ll come back to that later on. So click on Start mail merge and then the option right at the bottom is Step by step Mail Merge Wizard and this basically opens a Pane, normally on the right of the word Window here, and you can see at the bottom Step 1 of 6, and then there is in each of the six steps an explanation of what that step includes and very often there are options, there are other things to do in order to get through each of the steps. Now in the first step, we have to select what type of document. Now I’ve already mentioned envelopes and labels but we might want to create email messages or we may want to create some kind of directory. Now I’m going to take a very straightforward letter here. I’m just going to do that Happy New Year letter that we talked about. Send letters to a group of people. You can personalize the letter that each person receives. Okay that’s fine. So I’m going to click on Next and I’m going to create a Happy New Year letter.

Now the next step is where we decide what document we’re going to use, and there are basically three options. We can use the current document. So we could actually have our document ready to use. We can start from a template. Now if we use that option, then Word gives us access to a list of available mail merge templates. And the third option is to start from an existing document, and in this case we can look at any document. We can basically browse to find the document we want to use. Now on this occasion, I’m going to use the current document and I’m going to actually type in my Happy New Year message. Note what it says there. Use the current document. Start from the document shown here and use the Mail Merge Wizard to add recipient information. Now what I’m going to do and the reason I’m doing this will become apparent in a couple of minutes time. I’m just going to move down and just write some text in the middle. So what I’ve done there is to just type a very simple message. The staff of Acme wish you and your team a Happy New Year, etc. I’ve put Regards. I’ve put my name and my role there and I’ve left space at the top for two or three specific things. Now normally if I was doing this I’d probably have about five or six lines of address and I’d have a salutation like Dear John or Sir or whatever I might use and I might add various other things. But just to keep this one relatively straightforward, all I’m going to do is to put in the name of the recipient, the name of their company, and just say one line of their address and the salutation. So that’s just four things that I’m going to put on the upper part of this letter. At the moment, I’m leaving them out and we’ll come back to putting those in, in just a couple of minute’s time. So that’s Step 2 dealt with. I’m now going to move on to Step 3. Click on Next.

Now in Step 3, we define the recipients and again there are three options here. And if you look at Select recipients in the Pane on the right, we can use an existing list. So if we’ve already created a list of recipients, we can use that. There are various formats that that list can appear in and if you look at the text underneath, Use an existing list. It says Use names and addresses from a file or a database, and then there’s a Browse option there where you can select the source for the list of recipients. The second option is to select from your Outlook Contacts. I’m not going to use that option here because you’d see all my Outlook Contacts, but that’s a pretty great straightforward way of choosing the recipients of a mail merge document. What we’re going to do though is the third option which is to type a new list. Now when it comes to typing a new list it’s sometimes one of the areas where people get a little bit confused. So, type in your list, type the names and addresses of recipients and we click on this Create button to create a new recipient list. So click on Create. Now one of the things that I think sometimes can confuses people here is that you seem to have a list with a fixed number of fields in it. So we’ve got fields like title, first name, last name, and so on. Now in fact, this is really just a starting point and normally when you’re doing a mail merge, you’ll be customizing this list for your specific requirements. Now let me just start putting one person into the list just to show you how that works. So I’m going to put Ms., first name. We’re going to put Jane, last name, oh what about Doe? The company name is going to be Consolidated Metals. You can in fact adjust the width of the columns that we’re putting these into to make it a little bit easier to read. I’m going to put in address line 1, 236 Atlantic Boulevard. Now, I’m only going to use address line 1 for reasons that I said earlier on just to save a bit of time. So that’s all I’m going to use and the only other thing I need is a salutation. Now there is no field there for salutation so what I’m going to do is to customize the columns using this button here, Customize Columns.


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So first of all, let me get rid of the ones that I don’t want. I don’t want address line 2, so select that, click on delete. I don’t want city, delete. And what I do want is I want to add salutation; so click on Add, Salutation, click on OK. Now with the others, I’m going to delete the other ones that I don’t want and you can also use the move up and move down options to change the order of the fields. So I’m going to now correct that for this particular list of recipients and I’ll be with you in just a moment.

So I think that list is now correct. I’ve got title, first name, last name, company name, just address line 1, and the salutation. Now of course, in reality I’d have all of the address lines there if I was doing a full letter. So when I finish with that I just click on OK. Now, I’m going to go back now to Jane Doe and put in the salutation for Jane. So that’s going to be Dear Jane and my first recipient is setup. Now I’m going to setup four more recipients. So I’m going to click on New Entry. That gets me another person, type in the information for that person, and I’m going to do five of those and again join me in just a moment.

So I’ve setup my five recipients. I’ve entered the fields for all of them. I’ve put in the appropriate salutation for each person and I just click on OK. I can save that list, then partly to use now in case I have to say break off and come back to this later on and partly as I may want to use the same list again in the future. Now by default, it has a Microsoft address list extension of .mdb. So I’m going to choose a location for that. I’m going to call it Demo 1.mdb and click on Save. Now that I have that recipient list setup, I can actually return to it at any time. You might just see on the right there, Edit recipient list. I can always come back to that now, customize it further, and then I can do things like sort it, filter it, find duplicates, and so on. So I’m finished with that for now, click on OK, and that’s the end of Step 3. So now let’s click here to go to Step 4.

In Step 4 we actually setup the letter ready for the merge. So what we need to do here is to put all of those merge fields in. So we position the cursor where we want the first one to go and you think well we need to indicate there that it’s going to say Title which will be Mr. or Ms. or Miss. Now there are a couple of things that can make this a little bit quicker and easier for you and in the pane on the right one of the presets is a thing called Address Block. Now if I click on Address Block, I’ll explain what this does. This uses a pretty standard layout based on the standard fields for name and address, particularly in relation to business, and takes a sort of best guess at how you want this to look. Now you can adjust this sort of best guess using these check boxes on the left. But it will generally try to insert the recipient’s name in one of the standard formats. So in this case, it’s chosen that format. It’ll normally try to insert the company name if there is one. It’ll insert the postal address and it will format the address according to the destination country or region. Now it gives you a look at how this works for the first person in the recipient list. It’s going to say Ms. Jane Doe, Consolidated Metals, 236 Atlantic Boulevard. Well, that looks absolutely fine. That looks just how I need it. Now if it doesn’t come out the way you want to, you may be able to correct whatever the problem is by choosing another one of these options. So for instance if you didn’t want it to say Ms. Jane Doe, you just want it to say Jane Doe, if you chose that option, it would just say Jane Doe. But let’s go back to that one. And also if the fields are not matching correctly, you can choose this Match Fields option here. But I’m actually pretty happy with that so I’m going to click on OK, and it’s put the address block into the letter. So that’s the first of my sets of merge fields.

Now that’s pretty good actually because that’s done almost the whole job for me. But I’ve still got to put the salutation in and any field, any one of the potential merge fields can be placed anywhere. All you need to do is to click with the mouse where you want it to go or tap where you want it to go and More items gives you a list basically of everything that’s available, all of the fields that you’ve defined. So all I’m going to do is put in here Salutation and click on Insert. Click on Close. Now I should warn you that the spacing between these is something you need to be careful with because you probably want the letter to look balanced over the size of paper that you’re going to use. But it’s pretty straightforward to adjust that if you need to. You can delete or you can use the Enter key to put lines in. Let’s stick with that and hope that’s going to come out okay. You can always go back to the letter and make further adjustments later anyway.

Everything’s looking good so far. Let’s click Next to go to Step 5 and in Step 5, we get to preview the letters and the very first one there, Ms. Jane Doe, Consolidated Metals, and so on. That looks absolutely fine; in fact, it even looks reasonably balanced. Now at this point, I’d probably want to print one of these letters, see what it looks like; maybe make any other corrections or changes. But that shows the basic processing of the Mail Merge Wizard. What I now need to do is to look at the end of the process and what we can do with the individual letters and look at some of the variations, some of the options that we looked at earlier on. So I’m going to cover that in the next section. I’ll see you then.


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