Microsoft's Mail Merge feature allows you to send the same document with slight changes, to a large number of recipients. The term "merge" comes from the fact that one document (say, a letter) is merged with another document, a data source, such as a spreadsheet.
- How to Create a Mail Merge in Microsoft Word 2007
- How to Create a Mail Merge in Microsoft Word 2010
- How to Create a Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 Mail Merge
Word's mail merge feature works seamlessly with data from Excel. While Word also allows you to create its own data source, options for using this data are limited. Further, if you already have your data in a spreadsheet, it doesn't make much sense to retype all the information into Word's data source.
Preparing Your Data for Mail Merge
Theoretically, you can use any Excel worksheet in a Word mail merge function without any special preparation. However, I recommend that you do take some time to prepare your worksheet to optimize the mail merge process. Here are a few guidelines you should observe to make the mail merge process go more smoothly:
At the risk of stating the obvious, your data should be organized neatly into rows and columns. Think of each row as a single record and each column as a field you are going to insert into your document. (About.com's Spreadsheets writer has a good Excel data-entry tutorial if you need a refresher.)
Create a header row for the sheet you intend to use for the mail merge. A header row is a row containing labels that identify the data in the cells below. Excel can be finicky sometimes about differentiating between data and labels, so I like to provide clues: bold text, a cell border, and cell shading that are unique to the header row will ensure Excel differentiates it from the rest of your data. Later when you are merging the data with the main document, the labels will appear as the names of the merge fields, so there will be no confusion as to what data you are inserting into your document. Furthermore, it's a good practice to label your columns, as it helps prevent user error.
The data you intend to use for the mail merge must be on one sheet. If it is spread across multiple sheets, you will need to combine the sheets or perform multiple mail merges. Also, make sure the sheets are clearly named, as you will need to be able to select the sheet you intend to use without viewing it.