Using Advanced Mail Merge Features in Microsoft Word

Lesson Transcript

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Microsoft Word's mail merge feature allows users to easily form letters/emails/labels from text in a document. Learn the six steps to master this feature: Select document type, start the document, select recipients, write the letter, preview the letter, and finally merge. Updated: 12/23/2021

Quick Review of Mail Merge

Just so we can make sure we start out on the same footing, let's start with a brief overview of the mail merge function in Word. Found under the Mailings tab in Word 2016, the mail merge feature allows you to merge individual information (such as names, addresses, titles, and even custom information) with a form letter, email, label, etc.

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  • 0:04 Quick Review of Mail Merge
  • 0:25 Six Steps of the Wizard
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
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Six Steps of the Wizard

There are six steps in the mail merge wizard:

  1. Select the document type
  2. Start the document
  3. Select recipients
  4. Write your letter
  5. Preview your letters
  6. Complete the merge

Step 1: Select the Document Type

Step 1 doesn't have any advanced features, since it's just the step where you are selecting what type of document you are creating (i.e., a letter, e-mail, envelope, or label). However, starting in step 2, there are additional options that each add a little more flexibility to mail merge.

Step 2: Start the Document

The default option in step 2 is to use the current blank document as the document for your merge. Basically, you're starting from scratch with this option, and later you'll be creating your document using the current file that's running the mail merge wizard. This may work and be the usual method, but you can also select start from a template or start from existing document.

If you select 'start from a template,' you're taken to Word's database of templates, which are a number of pre-created document types. You can select any of them to become the document you'll merge your individual information with.

You may also already have a document to use for your mail merge, in which case you would select 'start from existing document.' You'll have the opportunity to edit this document later, so you can open the file, and then when it comes time to place in the mail merge fields, you can edit any parts of the document as needed. If you select this option, you're given a basic 'open file' dialog box to use to select the file.

Step 3: Select Recipients

The default option for selecting recipients is to use an existing list. This existing list is usually an Excel file that's properly formatted for mail merge with column titles and information on each row. You can also select either the choose from Outlook contacts method or the type a new list option.

The 'choose from Outlook contacts' method will ask you to select the folder where your Outlook contacts are stored. Word then pulls the information you have about each recipient into the mail merge wizard and gives you the option to select which contacts are included in your merge. The 'type a new list' option will open a dialog box where you can enter basic information about each contact that you can later merge.

Step 4: Write Your Letter

Step 4 is creating your document, or most commonly, writing your letter. This is where you tell Word where in your document that specific data fields from your contact list should be entered. For example, if your greeting line starts with 'Dear,' then by inserting the field <<name>> after that, the mail merge will create one document for each name. So, <<name>> will be replaced in your document with actual names, such as 'Dear Julie,' 'Dear Robert,' and any others in your data list.

There are also three built-in fields you can use: address block, greeting line, and electronic postage. Selecting each of these three fields will bring up a dialog box where you can make a number of specific selections about how your address block and greeting line appear, and if you are working on envelopes, where the electronic postage will go.

There is one thing important to note. To use electronic postage, you need to first install an add-in to Word from a company that supports mail merge electronic postage, each of which typically requires an account and a payment method so you can pay for that postage.

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