Mail Merge Using an Excel Spreadsheet

Stack of letters after a mail merge

A mail merge can invaluably save you time from having to send or print numerous documents while only slightly changing a few attributes. 

What is a mail merge?

A mail merge is used to batch-process numerous personalized documents such as letters, envelops, labels and emails in one go.

For example, an organization may want to send donation request letters to its members. As we know, some organizations have thousands of members, which means without a merge process one would need to format thousands of letters individually. Using a mail merge, you only need to write and format one letter paired with a spreadsheet of data, and viola! You have thousands of letters completed for you.

Steps involved in applying mail merge:

Step 1:

Prepare the sample letter in Microsoft Word. It is helpful to have everything written and formatted prior to beginning the merge. Once complete, save it.

Step 2:

Create an Excel sheet with details of mail recipients and save it. It is helpful to have all the data separated into various columns, such as title, first name, last name, address 1, address 2, city, state, zip, and any other attributes you want to include in the letter. It is also easier to make sure that the text in the sheet is formatted how you want it to appear in the letter as far as capitalization and spacing.  Spacing is especially important because, if you have a few spaces after a first name, they will be carried over into the merge. It is best to resolve these types of issues in the spreadsheet before merging.

Step 3:

Start the step-by-step mail merge process in Word. On the mailing tab, in the Start Mail Merge group, choose Start Mail Merge, and then choose Step-by-Step Mail Merge Wizard.

Step 4:

Choose the type of merge you want to run. We are sending a letter, so choose Letters and then choose Next: Starting document on the bottom right of the page.


Step 5:

Choose Use the current document, and then choose Next: Select recipients.


Step 6:

Click on Browse and choose the Excel document you saved on your desktop in Step 1. When we select the file, it will look like Sample: Mail merge recipient sample. 

Step 7:

Click on OK and then choose Next: Write your letter, on the bottom right of the page.

Step 8:

Highlight the field in your letter you want to fill, choose More items, and select the correct field that corresponds to your spreadsheet column. Repeat this step for all fields you want to fill in the letter. After you select the field, press enter. The merge field in the letter should appear something like “Dear <<Title>> <<Last Name>>,”. It is important that the merged field has the << >> symbol on either side and that you input these fields with the appropriate spacing and punctuation. For example, put a space between the <<Title>> and <<Last Name>> attribute if that is how you wish for it to appear.

Step 9:

Preview and finish the mail merge. Choose Next: Preview your letters. Choose the <<Recipient>> record button to move through and review the letters.

Step 10:

Choose Next: Complete the merge, and choose Print Documents or send E-mail messages.

Step 11:

Save the mail merge. When you save the mail merge document, it stays connected to the data source, and it can be used for next bulk mailing.

Step 12:

Before printing and mailing for distribution it is recommended that you check 10 percent of the population on the spreadsheet against the merged letters to be sure nothing shifted causing incorrect info to be input.

Best of luck in your next bulk processing endeavor!


Written by Usman Ali