Mail Merge 101 – Easy!

A Mail Merge is a way to create a document once and then easily recreate the document with alternate information in specified locations. For example, the most commons use of a Mail Marge is a letter that is being sent to multiple recipients. The contents or body of the letter is the same for everyone; however the recipient information needs to be customized for each letter. 

A mail merge allows you to create a letter for 500 recipients as easily (or easier) than you could create one for 5 recipients.

  1. Create the letter that you intend to use in Microsoft Word
  2. Create a spreadsheet that contains all the information that needs to be substituted.
    For example; First Name, Last Name, Company, Address, etc…It may look something like this –

    Suffix FName LName Company Street City State Zip
    Ms. Jane Smith ABC Corp 123 C St Portland ME 04101
    Mr. John Smith 123 Inc 456 N St Portland ME 04101

    Hints: All column headings should be a single word, The ‘Zip’ column may need to be specially formatted if the zip codes you are using start with ‘0’. This can be done under the cell formatting options, Remember the name and location of the spreadsheet when you save it

  3. With your letter open and your spreadsheet closed, navigate to the ‘Mailings’ tab (5th from the left) at the top of Microsoft Word toolbar (or Ribbon).
    Choose the ‘Select Recipients’ option (4th from the left)
    Choose ‘Use Existing List…’ (Second option). This will open another windowMail Merge Select Existing Source
  4. Navigate to the location where you stored your spreadsheet
    Select your saved spreadsheet, Click ‘Open’
    Mail Merge Choose Database
  5. This will give you a list of the sheets available in that file, generally yours will be ‘Sheet 1’ unless you named it otherwise
    Mail Merge Select sheet
  6. You now have some additional options available to you on the ‘Mailing’ tab on the top of the page
    One of the new options is ‘Insert Merge Field’ this should give you a list of all of the column headings in your spreadsheet.
    Mail Merge Insert Fields
  7. Now you can insert the desired fields from your spreadsheet into your letter template by clicking on them

    Here is an example;

    Hi «Fname»,
    I hope business is going well at «Company»!

    Hint: Any blank fields in your spreadsheet will be skipped in your letter

  8. Once you are done adding your merge fields, you can ‘preview results’ or ‘Finish & Merge’
    Both options are also found on the ‘Mailings’ tab toward the right side of the menu

Hopefully this quick Mail Merge 101 tutorial helps you become more efficient and effective!

For more help with your mailings or any other word processing and administrative functions, contact Office Solutions ME!


7 Word Processing Tips for Readability

Word Processing – more than book reports and letters. Word processing applications give us the combination of effective writing, graphics, and formatting with easy-to-use tools and editing options. The most popular word processing applications are Microsoft Word and WordPerfect, plus there is a list of free or open-source options available. And while anyone can write, not everyone can format effectively and efficiently. Here are some quick editing tips and tricks to increase readability;

  1. Watch margins – make your margins match through out your document. Scan your document to ensure that all text, including bullets and numbers, are aligned evenly.
  2. Examine fonts– Use all the same font type and size for similar content. Considering using serif fonts for your paragraphs and san-serif fonts for your headings to increase readability.
  3. Number pages – this makes it easier to find information in your document especially when printed.
  4. Bold headings – this gives a clear map of your content and draws your readers’ eye to topics of interest. This allows for better ‘scanning’ of your document if someone does not have time to read it in entirety.
  5. Bullets and numbers – again this helps with scanning by highlighting important items or lists. This is another great way to increase readability.
  6. Page breaks – these keep titles and text together, avoiding awkward breaks in your text and information.
  7. Hidden (nonprinting) characters – these will not print, but allow you to see what keys you have used. These can be extremely helpful when trying to format a document or see why formatting is not matching.

Formatting your document can be as important and time consuming as the writing and creating actual content. Microsoft Word makes it easy to format and edit your documents, including writing in APA or MLA formats. Being skilled in using these programs can save much time and frustration. Remember, improper formatting can be just as distracting and unprofessional as misspellings or improper grammar, so spend the time or get the help you need!

Have formatting or editing questions? Need help? Feel free to comment…