Merging for Dummies: Creating Mail Merge Letters in Word 2007

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In my last Merging for Dummies article I showed you how to do a quick merge for labels and some of you really liked it.

Well, there's another way to use the merge feature in MS Word -- creating mail merge letters.

Think about it: you have 20 people you want to send a thank you letter to (a wedding thank you letter, perhaps :)) and you want to make it personalized with their names, addresses, etc. Well, writing each letter separately would take you ... oh, I don't know... couple of hours? Probably.

With 20 people at your wedding it's still not that bad, but what if you had 300 people at your wedding? Now writing all 300 thank you letters one by one is a full time job, right? Not necessarily. I will show you how to write, personalize and print all these letters within minutes.

Ready? Set? Go!

Planning Before Merging

We start off by planning our Excel spreadsheet. If you created your labels with me by merging the addresses in Word you should have an Excel document ready. If not, take a look at the spreadsheet below for an example. Now all we need to do is make a couple of small changes.

1. To make the personalization complete, go back to your excel document.

2. As you can see my list isn't long, but the procedure would be exactly the same with a list of any size. First, we will include a personal salutation column. Click on your Address column to select it.

3. Right-click on the selection and click Insert.

4. A new column will be inserted between the Salutation and Address columns.

5. Now create a personal salutation column, for things such as: "Aunt Amanda & Uncle Zach", or "Cousins Kathy & Thomas". You can input whatever you want to include in your letters here.

6. Next we'll insert one more column in our spreadsheet. This one can be inserted on the end as it will hold information on what type of gift we have received from these people. It can look something like this:

Keep in mind that you do not have to add these two columns in order to create a personalized thank you letter. I am adding them just to show you a couple of extra tricks you can do in a mail merge.

Once you are done making changes to your spreadsheet, don't forget to save it and then close it.

Writing Your Thank You Letter

Now it's time to write our thank you letter. Go ahead and open up MS Word and start typing. Here is what I wrote in my thank you letter.

Now, let's make it pretty, shall we?

1. First let's change the font. Hit Ctrl+A to select the entire text. Then go to the font and pick a font that you like. In this example I picked Lucida Calligraphy as my font and I also change the size to 14pt.

2. You can also add a picture to your letter if you'd like. Position the cursor in a place where you want your picture to appear. Next, click on the Insert tab and then click on Picture. Browse to the location where your picture is located, select it and then click on Insert.

3. To position the picture in the middle, select the picture, click on the Home tab, and then click on the Center tab icon (or Ctrl+E).

4. Your picture should now be centered and your letter ready for the mail merge.

Once you're done making final changes to your thank you letter, make sure to save it.

Creating a Mail Merge Letter

1. To start your mail merge, click on the Mailings tab, then click on the Start Mail Merge icon and select Letters.

2. Next, click on the Select Recipients icon and select Use Existing List.

We are choosing this selection because we have an Excel document ready with all the addresses we need. If, however you do not have an excel document, you can select the Type New List option and type in all the addresses. I find that having an Excel document is much more convenient as you can use it over and over again without retyping the information every time you need to create a mail merge.

3. Now you need to point to the location where your Excel spreadsheet is located. My Excel document is located in My Documents in a folder called Addresses. Select your document and click on Open.

4. Select the Sheet1$ option, make sure the check box is checked next to First row of data contains column headers, and then click OK.

(Unless you have multiple sheets in your Excel document you will always select Sheet1$. If you have more than one sheet then you should be able to tell which sheet holds your current addresses.)

5. Next, position your cursor to a location where we are going to insert the salutation and type in Dear <space>

6. Now we are going to insert our merge fields. You can do it automatically by clicking Address Block or Greeting Line option, but I want you to do it from scratch so you can personalize it, ok?

With your cursor being located right after "Dear", click on the Insert Merge Field Option.

7. Select Personal Salutation and click on Insert.

8. Your merge field should now appear in your document. Click on the Close button to close the Insert Merge Field window.

9. To complete the salutation, type in ";" <semicolon> at the end of the line.

10. Ok, great! But what if you didn't create the extra columns. No problem. You can use your standard salutation by using the Mr. & Mrs. + last name fields.

If you want to go that route, click on the Insert Merge Field option, select the Salutation field and hit the Insert button.

Then hit the Close button to close the Insert Merge Field window.

11. Type in a <space> after the Salutation field in your document and click on the Insert Merge Field option again.

12. Select the Last Name Field, hit the Insert button, and follow it again with the Close button to close the Insert Merge Field window.

13. Type in <semicolon> at the end of the line and you are all set.

14. I am going to go back to our first selection of Personalized Salutation to continue this demonstration. Next we are going to specify the type of gift we have received. Position your cursor right before the word gift in the first line.

15. Click on the Insert Merge Field option, select the Gift field. Next click on the Insert button, and then hit the Close button to close the Insert Merge Field window.

16. All you need to do is add a <space> between the Gift field and the word gift. Go ahead and do that now - hit the space bar. Once you are done, save your document.

17. You can also add the complete address on top of the letter as well as a date if you want. These are not required but let me show you really quickly how you can do that.

First, let's insert their full address manually (what? manually? I know, I know... but this is the best way to learn, trust me).

Position your cursor above your salutation line. You may want to insert an extra line or two by hitting Enter on your keyboard. When ready, click on the Insert Merge Field option.

18. Now I'm going to have you insert the following fields, in this specific order without closing the Insert Merge Field window. Let's do this the way professionals do, ok?

We will insert spaces and hard returns later. So here is the order in which I want you to insert the fields:

  • Salutation (where you have Mr. & Mrs.) - select it and click on the Insert button
  • Last Name - select it and click on the Insert button
  • Address - select it and click on the Insert button
  • Apt No - select it and click on the Insert button
  • City - select it and click on the Insert button
  • State - select it and click on the Insert button
  • Zip - select it and click on the Insert button

Once finished, click on the Close button to close the Insert Merge Field window. Here is what you should have.

19. I know... it's not pretty. It looks like one big mess, so let's fix it.

We need a space between the Salutation field and the Last Name field. In order to do that select the Last Name field so it is highlighted. If you click on it once it should highlight it for you. Try it. Once it is highlighted, make sure the cursor is at the beginning of the highlighting.

20. Once you have the selection and the cursor is at the beginning, hit the space bar on your keyboard.

21. Don't panic. It looks like the entire thing just went over to the second line. That's normal because MS Word thinks the rest is one big word and tries to keep it together.

Select the Address field so it's highlighted, position the cursor at the beginning, and this time, hit the Enter key on your keyboard.

22. Better, huh? Next, do the exact same thing with the Apt# No field -- select it, position cursor to the beginning and hit Enter. Do the same with the City field.

23. Now we have to insert a <comma> and a <space> between the City field and the State field. To do that, select the State field, position the cursor at the beginning and type in the <comma> and then hit the space bar on your keyboard.

24. And the last one, Zip field, needs a space. So select it, position cursor at the beginning and hit the space bar on your keyboard.

25. Now, it looks like my address lines are a little too spaced out. If this happens to you too, don't worry, there is an easy way to fix it. Select the address lines, right-click on the selection and then select the Paragraph option.

26. Under the Spacing section, change the before and after options to 0pt. For line spacing option change the number to 1. Then click OK.

27. Now our address lines look much better.

28. Let's insert the Date field next. Hit the Enter key a couple of times to insert more lines. Click on the Insert tab, then click on the arrow pointing down next to the Quick Parts option, and select Field.

29. Scroll down under Field names and select Date. Under Date formats pick your favorite format. In this example I'm going to use MMMM d, yyyy. Once you are happy with your selection click OK.

30. Your date field is now inserted and it will automatically adjust every day you open your document. Go ahead and save your document again.

And here is what my merge letter looks like. Ready to merge it? I am!

The Final Steps: Merging

1. To see the actual address in our letter we need to finish the merge. To do so, make sure you are in the Mailings tab, click on the Finish & Merge option and select Edit Individual Documents.

This option will let you look at the letters before printing them. If you do not want to do that, you can select the Print Documents option right away.

2. Make sure All is selected and then click OK.

3. And here are your documents ready to print!

Wasn't that easier than typing it all out? Sure it was!

Now remember, if you need any address labels for your letters my article on Creating Address Labels in Word 2007 is here to help!

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Gosia Grabowska

(MCTS Active Directory, MCTS Vista, Network+, Linux+, Project+, PMP) is an experienced Network Support Specialist and an expert in Windows Server support. She graduated from DePaul University, Chicago with a Bachelor degree in Network Technologies with highest honors. Gosia has over 8 years of technical and support experience and has worked as Systems Administrator for a high profile law firm, where she managed the Backup and Disaster Recovery plan. Gosia has been a part of the Train Signal team since 2006 as the Product Manager and has written many articles on a variety of topics, including Exchange Server 2007, Windows Vista, Small Business Server, and more.