Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 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: Conditional Processing During a Mail Merge.

Conditional Processing During a Mail Merge

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated April 25, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365


When using Word's mail merge feature, you are not limited to using only the actual data fields when putting together your merge document. Word also includes special fields that allow you to conditionally control how Word does the merging. These types of fields can be easily inserted by clicking on the Insert Word Field drop-down list on the Mail Merge toolbar. The three fields you can use for conditional processing are as follows:

  • If ... Then ... Else. Use this field if you want to do a comparison between a data field and a value, and then take some action based on the comparison. This field is equivalent to the construct of the same name used in many programming languages.
  • Next Record If. Use this field if you want to compare the contents of a data field to a value, and then jump to the next record if the comparison is true.
  • Skip Record If. Use this field when you want to compare the contents of a data field to a value, and then ignore the current data record if the comparison is true.

You cannot use Word's conditional mail-merge fields to compare values in any record other than the current one. It would be very nice to compare the contents of a data field in the current record with the contents of the same data field in the previous record, but Word will unfortunately not allow it.

One possible workaround to this shortcoming—if you are using an Excel worksheet as your data source—is to simply copy the controlling field (column) to another column, and then offset it by one row. Here is an example:

Item Category OldCat
Dogs 1
Cats 1 1
Birds 2 1
Pigs 3 2

As Word processes each record of the data source, the value of the OldCat data field is the same as the contents of the Category data field in the previous record. Thus, you could use a compound field such as the following to check and act upon the comparison between the fields:

{IF {MERGEFIELD Category} <> {MERGEFIELD OldCat} "first text" "second text"}

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8176) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Conditional Processing During 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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