Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. 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: Conditionally Adding a Period in a Mail Merge.

Conditionally Adding a Period in a Mail Merge

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 29, 2014)


Rose uses Word's mail-merge feature to create certificates. The source data is in an Access database, and sometimes the middle initial pulled from the database has a period after the initial and sometimes it doesn't. Rose is wondering if there is a way, in Word, to have the mail merge check for the trailing period on the data in the middle initial field and automatically add one if necessary.

Unfortunately, we couldn't come up with a way to do this. Word doesn't seem to have the capability to check for characters within the merged data on the fly. We did come up with a workaround, however. Open your merge document and, right after the merge field that inserts the middle initial, type a period. When you do your merge, some middle initials will have one period (if they had none in the data source) and others will have two (if they had one in the data source). All you then need to do is a Find and Replace operation, replacing all instances of two periods with a single period.

This may not be as "clean" as you desire; after all, it adds an extra step to your certificate preparation. It is easier, however, than manually going through the merged file and looking at each middle initial yourself.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (9629) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Conditionally Adding a Period in 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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What is 5 + 0?

2015-03-11 13:36:57

scott saltz

an easier way:


2013-07-30 08:00:12


You can do this with field codes pretty easily. Assuming your middle initial field is called "MidInt", here's what you would use:

{ MERGEFIELD MidInt }{ IF { COMPARE { MERGEFIELD MidInt } = "*." } = 1 "" "." }

Remember you can't manually add the brackets; you have to use CTRL+F9. Use ALT+F9 to toggle field code view, and F9 to update a field code (or right click, then select Update Field).

Here's what it's doing:
* { MERGEFIELD MidInt } -- This simply adds the middle initial, with or without the trailing period
* { COMPARE { MERGEFIELD MidInt } = "*." } -- the COMPARE field compares two strings. We are comparing the MidInt field against "*.". Since * is a wildcard, we are looking for anything that ends in a period. The COMPARE field returns 1 for true and 0 for false.
* IF [compare clause] = 1 "" "." } -- the IF field has the syntax: { IF [comparison] [true result] [false result] }. In this case, since the compare clause above returns 1 when there is a period, we want [true result] to be an empty string, and [false result] to be a period: if there's already a period there, don't add one, otherwise add one.

Note that, as usual, this is another area where you should question the data instead of trying to work around it. Why is that field inconsistent in the first place? A well designed database shouldn't have this issue. Luckily, if you are working with Access or any other database program, you can rather easily correct the data. If you want to remove the period from every middle initial field (my recommendation) you can use the following SQL (assuming that MidInt is found on the Names table):

SET MidInt = LEFT(MidInt, LEN(MidInt) - 1)
WHERE RIGHT(MidInt, 1) = “.”

Or if you want to add a period to every initial:
SET MidInt = MidInt & “.”
WHERE RIGHT(MidInt, 1) <> “.”

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