The Microsoft Mail Merge feature and I have a love-hate relationship. About twelve years ago, while I was employed as an intern for a consular service, I was asked to draft a letter that was to be mailed to five hundred people. I was given a list of addresses on a sheet of paper and asked to print the letters and envelopes after drafting them in a Word document and send them on their way. I was given two days to complete this task along with the excessive amount of other work I was to keep up on simultaneously.
I spent hours typing out each address and copying and pasting the content of the letter into each document prior to sending the envelopes and letters to print. Imagine the anger I felt when upon completing the project with little time to spare, my boss pointed out that I could have used the Excel version of the address list and the mail merge feature to have completed the task in a fraction of the time.
So you see, I love the mail merge feature for its ability to simplify my life immensely, but I hate it for not having introduced itself sooner.
In short, the mail merge feature is a tool than can be used to create documents such as form letters, envelopes, and mass mailings in a fraction of the time it would have taken to draft and send each document separately.
There are three basic steps to a mail merge.
Step one: Compose the document you intend to use for the merge. This can be a letter, labels, spreadsheet etc.
Step two: Decide on your data source. Where is your recipient list coming from? This can be an excel spreadsheet of names and addresses, or your data might be coming from your Outlook contacts. You will need to be sure your recipient information is complete prior to connecting your data source to the document on which you intend to perform the merge.
Step three: Merge your data with the intended document.
Microsoft has thankfully made this process quite easy to navigate. The Mail Merge options can be found under the Mailings header in the main tool bar for Word.
There is also a handy Wizard feature that is great for first time users.
The Mail Merge process is complex for sure, but it certainly does not have to be intimidating. This is a very basic overview of how this helpful tool works. I will provide additional articles that follow will focus on individual features more in-depth.