How to Use Mail Merge in Microsoft Word 2016 for Mac

765569 How to Use Mail Merge in Microsoft Word 2016 for Mac

Mail merge is an invaluable tool for creating customized mass communications like letters, envelopes, and labels. This tutorial will teach you how to harness the power of mail merge using Microsoft Word 2016 on your Mac.

What is Mail Merge?

Mail merge allows you to easily create batch documents that contain variable information pulled from an external data source like an Excel file or database. For example, you can use mail merge to:

  • Send personalized form letters to customers or members
  • Print addressed envelopes for mass mailings
  • Create labels for a fundraising event

The process joins an Excel spreadsheet or other data file containing the variable information with a template document in Word to quickly generate individually customized letters, emails, and more based on the records in the data file.

When Should You Use Mail Merge?

Any time you need to generate dozens or even hundreds of documents that contain mostly static text with some variable fields mixed in, consider using Word’s mail merge. The most common use cases include:

  • Form letters or emails: Send personalized communications to customers, members, patients, donors, etc. You can include fields like first name, company name, account number, recent purchases, etc.
  • Address labels: Print sheets of mailing labels already addressed to contacts in your database. This saves you from handwriting addresses or copy-pasting into label templates.
  • Envelopes: Quickly print #10 business envelopes with return and recipient addresses for mass mailings.
  • Name badges: Print customized name badges for conference attendees based on registration data.
  • Certificates: Merge names, dates, and other details onto achievement certificate templates.

Essentially if you have a main document like a form letter, name badge, or envelope template that is mostly static but needs some personalized details merged in from another data source, mail merge can automate the process beautifully.

Step 1: Prepare the Data Source

The data source provides the variable information that will get inserted into each copy of your main merge document in Word. It’s typically stored in an Excel spreadsheet, Access database, or even a CSV file. Follow these best practices when formatting your data:

  • Put one record per row. Each row will generate a separate merged document.
  • Make the first row column headers. This helps identify each field.
  • Include all merge fields needed. Add columns for every detail you want to pull into the main document, such as first name, last name, address, city, state, zip code, salutation, account number, recent purchase date and amount, etc.
  • Use text fields for names/addresses. Make sure key fields contain text, not formulas or numeric formats.
  • Save the file. Saving ahead of time prevents errors during the merge process. CSV or XLSX formats usually work best.

This sample data file contains three records ready to merge:

First NameLast NameAddressCityStateZipCode
JohnSmith123 Main StAkronOH44310
SueJones456 Oak AveColumbusOH43201
BobWilliams789 Elm StCincinnatiOH45202

Step 2: Set Up the Main Document in Word

Next you’ll create a main Word document that contains the standardized text along with blank fields marking where the variable data will be inserted from the Excel rows or database records.

Add Merge Fields

Place merge fields in your document where you want the appopriate data from the data source to appear. Merge fields are enclosed in double chevrons (<< >>) and match the column headers from the data file exactly. For our example, we can add:

  • <>
  • <>
  • <>
  • <>, <> <>

When merged, John’s row would output his first name, last name, address details, and so on in the main document.

You can add other text and formatting around the fields. For instance you could have:

Dear <> <>,

We noticed you recently moved to this address:
<>, <> <>

Please call us if you would like to update the address we have on file for you.

Other Mail Merge Tips

  • Use conditional logic to include or exclude paragraphs, images, entire sections based on data file criteria
  • Apply styles for quick, consistent formatting
  • Use FILLIN fields as placeholders you’ll enter later
  • Insert images like corporate logos and signatures that will appear on every document
  • Apply themes and templates to brand documents for your organization

Create Labels and Envelopes

Word also has pre-built templates where you can easily dump in addresses from your data source to generate sheets of labels or envelopes without hassling with formatting. Look under New Document > Envelopes or Labels to access these.

Step 3: Preview and Complete the Merge

When your main document is linked up to your data source, you’re ready to preview results:

  1. On the Mailings tab, click Preview Results to view each version.
  2. Browse through using the arrows.
  3. Make sure variables pulled correctly for each record. Double check for typos, formatting issues, bad alignments, and other problems.
  4. If issues exist, cancel out of preview and refine the main document template or data file as needed.
  5. When everything looks accurate, click Finish & Merge on the toolbar.
  6. Select whether to print the letters immediately, save as a new document to edit or export later, or send via email.

And that’s it! By leveraging mail merge in Word, you can save hours that would otherwise be spent manually personalizing hundreds of documents and communications.

Mail Merge Tips and Tricks

Follow these tips to level up your mail merge skills:

Use rules to filter records. Under the Mailings tab, click Rules to determine which data rows get included. For example, you can merge letters only for Midwest customers who placed an order totaling over $500 last quarter.

Save main documents as templates. If you regularly send out form communications, save the main documents as templates in Word to easily reuse for future merge projects.

Link Excel data instead of importing. If your data source is an Excel spreadsheet, link it instead of importing the sheet into Word. This way when the Excel data refreshes, you can rerun the merge without having to set it up again.

Merge to email. In Step 3, choose to send the merged letters via Outlook to instantly email personalized messages to everyone in your data file.

Use nested fields for calculations. You can insert formulas into merge fields like <<[TotalOwed]+[LateFees]>> to dynamically calculate values during the merge process.

Troubleshooting Mail Merge Issues

If you run into trouble, here are solutions to a few common mail merge problems:

  • Blank fields in output: The merge field name doesn’t exactly match the data source’s column header. Double check for typos or spaces.
  • Spaced out text: Entries are aligned weirdly. Set alignment options on problem paragraphs to Left rather than Justified.
  • Page break mid-record: In the final merged documents, some records carry over to a second page while others keep everything on page 1. Format the template file to avoid orphan lines.
  • Too many pages output: Deselect “Print All” for the data source category if you only wanted to print certain filtered records but it printed everything.

Next Steps with Mail Merge

The mail merge functionality covered here should meet most basic document personalization needs. However, power users can take the process even further by:

  • Using conditional content controls like IF fields to inject paragraphs or images that depend on data file criteria
  • Having data file entries trigger different Word templates to merge with, creating more customized output
  • Handling duplicate records across batches by flagging unique record IDs in the data source

Now you have a solid grasp of how to implement mail merge to supercharge your business productivity! Reach out if you have any other questions.

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