Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Beginning a Mail Merge.

Beginning a Mail Merge

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 10, 2018)

Word includes a very powerful mail merge feature. In order to take advantage of this feature, you need to create a main document. This document is the "template" or "boilerplate" for your finished document. It includes everything Word needs to create the finished document, including placeholders for the data that Word extracts from a data file.

A mail merge document is not complete, however, until you have also specified a data file that you want to associate with the main document. To create your main mail merge document and attach a data source to it, follow these steps:

  1. If you want to use an existing document as the basis for your mail merge, load that document from disk.
  2. Click the Mailings tab of the ribbon.
  3. In the Start Mail Merge group, click the Start Mail Merge tool. Word displays a list of options you can select.
  4. Click the Step by Step Mail Merge Wizard option, at the bottom of the list. Word displays the Mail Merge task pane at the right side of the screen.
  5. From the list of available document types provided in the task pane, select the one that most closely matches the type of document you want to create. In most cases you will choose Letters, but you can also choose any of the other options.
  6. At the bottom of the task pane, click Next: Starting Document. The wizard's next step is displayed in the task pane.
  7. Specify what you want to use as your starting document for the mail merge. If you have a document open (such as the one mentioned in step 1), you should choose Use the Current Document. You can choose either of the other options (Start From a Template and Start From Existing Document) if they are more appropriate for what you are doing.
  8. At the bottom of the task pane, click Next: Select Recipients. The wizard's next step is displayed in the task pane.
  9. Specify where you want the merge data to come from. If you already have the list in a disk file of any type, choose the default of Use An Existing List. You can also choose Select From Outlook Contacts or Type a New List.
  10. At the bottom of the task pane, click Next: Write Your Letter. If you chose Use An Existing List in the previous step, Word displays the Select Data Source dialog box. This dialog box is very similar to a standard Open dialog box.
  11. Using the controls in the Select Data Source dialog box, locate the file you want to use for your data source, then click Open. Word displays the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box.
  12. Use the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box to make changes to which records are to be used in the merge and to modify the order in which the records are merged. When completed, click OK. The information in the task pane is updated to reflect your choices regarding the data source.
  13. At the bottom of the task pane, click Next: Write Your Letter. (Yes, this is the same thing you clicked in step 10. Go figure.)

At this point, you are ready to modify or type your main document. You will include merge fields in the document that indicate where you want the data from your data file to appear.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5965) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Beginning a Mail Merge.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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