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How to Mail Merge from MS Word and Excel (Updated Guide) 

A mail merge is a handy way to send personalized mass letters and bulk emails quickly.

It works by automatically adding personalization data from a data file (for example, a spreadsheet) to a template file (like a letter or an email).

In this article, I’ll first cover what a mail merge is and explain how it works. Then, I’ll go over how to mail merge using an Excel spreadsheet and a Word document.

Later, I’ll mention two issues of using the traditional method for mail merges and suggest a better and more powerful alternative to help you send mass emails.

Additionally, I’ll also answer seven FAQs associated with mail merges.

This Article Contains:

(Click on links to jump to specific sections)

Let’s jump right in.

What Are Mail Merges?

A mail merge lets you create personalized documents that are automatically customized on a recipient-by-recipient basis. This spares you the trouble of manually personalizing each document yourself!

You can use mail merges to create personalized messages automatically for:

  • Marketing emails.
  • Newsletters.
  • Custom catalogs.
  • Form letters, and more.

Note: A form letter is a template file used to create mass letters. Instead of typing a letter for each recipient, you can use a form letter to make quick, unique, personalized letters for each person. 

Essentially, if there’s a document you need to personalize at scale, mail merges can take care of it for you!

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Let’s now explore how a mail merge works.

How Does Mail Merge Work?

First, you need to understand the two essential components of every mail merge.

They are:

  1. Template File: the document that holds the message you’ll be sending out (like a letter or an email). It specifies the places where the personalization data will go. And that data (names, addresses, etc.) is fetched from a data file.
  2. Data File: a data source like a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or a Google Sheets file. Each cell in the data file contains different information (first name, last name, email address, etc.) that will be placed in your template file in the corresponding space.

Essentially, a mail merge automatically adds the personalization data from your data file to your template file

For example, let’s say you want to perform a mail merge to create mass letters.
Here, your letter is the template file — it has placeholders for your contacts’ names and addresses.

Template file

Notice the «FirstName», «Address» and other tags in the letter?
These are placeholders for your recipient’s details, also known as mail merge fields.

A mail merge field draws the personalization information from your data file (spreadsheet) to help you create your personalized letter.

But to make this work, the name of the mail merge field in your personalized letter template must match the name of the column header in your spreadsheet.

Data file

If the name of the merge fields and column headers match, the mail merge function would then merge your data file and your letter template to generate a personalized letter for each person.

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Next, I’ll go over the steps involved in using mail merge to automatically personalize individual letters.

How to Use Mail Merge to Send Bulk Letters

You can use the mail merge feature in Word and Excel to create auto-personalized individual letters quickly.

Here:

  • The mail merge template is a form letter in Microsoft Word.
  • The data file is an Excel spreadsheet containing your recipients’ details.

Let’s now explore the steps involved in using mail merge for bulk letters:

Step 1: Create and format your address list in Microsoft Excel

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up an Excel data file:

Step A
Open MS Excel and click on Blank workbook to open a blank Excel workbook (or document).

Blank workbook

Note: If your contact data is readily available as an Excel spreadsheet, open the file and format it. If the data is present in a TXT or CSV file, go to Data From Text/CSV to open the file in Excel.

From text

Step B
Now you can start entering the details of your address list into the Excel workbook.
Only enter your column headers in the first row, starting in cell A1.

A1 cell

Check your header row to make sure the column headers in your Excel spreadsheet are exactly the same as the field names (or placeholder names) you want to use in your Word template document.

For example, if the column names in your Excel sheet are “FirstName”, “LastName”, and “Email”, the field names in your Microsoft Word document should also be “FirstName”, “LastName”, and “Email”.

Step C
Enter your contact information in your Excel database as one record per row, starting from cell A2.

Enter Contact information

Quick Tip
Data entries such as ZIP codes, percentages, currencies, etc., must be in the correct numeric format. To ensure this, you need to:

1. Select a column that has numeric data entries.

2. Go to the Home → Number section.

General- number

3. Click on the Number Format box and choose the correct format from the drop-down list that appears.

4. Repeat steps 1–3 for all columns containing numeric values.

Number format box

Step D
Once you’ve created the contact sheet, you can save your Excel document by pressing Ctrl+S or going to File → Save or File → Save As.

Bonus Tip for Gmail Users
If you’re creating your first mail merge data file, you can export all your existing Gmail contacts (or “Google Contacts”) to get started quickly. Read my guide on how to export contacts from Gmail to learn how.

Note: Ensure that you finish all edits to the Excel spreadsheet before starting the mail merge process. Making edits to an Excel sheet once you’ve already begun a mail merge is a complicated additional step.

Step 2: Create the main mail merge document in MS Word

The next step is to create the form letter (or mail merge template — your main document) in MS Word. You can create a different mail merge template for every bulk email campaign, and you can save the templates for future use.

A favorite time-saving technique of mass email managers is to choose an old email template that worked well, update the content where necessary, and give the mail merge template a new name.

As a result, when you create your mail merge document, try writing it in a way that will let you adapt and reuse it in future bulk mailings.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create a mail merge template in MS Word:

Step A
Open a new document (blank document) in Word.

This is the main document for your mail merge.

Blank document

Step B
Click on the Mailings tab and select Start Mail Merge. A drop-down menu displaying every different mail merge document type will appear.

You can select the document type for letters, emails, envelopes, mailing labels, or a directory. Since we’re using the Word mail merge feature for sending letters, choose Letters as your merge document.

Letters

Step C (Optional)
You can also use the Step-by-Step Mail Merge Wizard (from the Start Mail Merge drop-down menu) to streamline the Word mail merge process.

The wizard lets you quickly select the starting mail merge document.

For example, it lets you use the current document, which is the mail merge letter you’re creating now. Or you could choose a starter template or another existing document as your mail merge template.

mail merge dropdown

Step D
Write the body of the letter.

Letter body

(Don’t worry about manually adding placeholders in your letter yet.)

Step 3: Select the recipient list

Now you can select the list of mail merge recipients (from your Excel file) who will receive your letter.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

Step A
Click on the Select Recipients option in the Mailings tab. A drop-down menu appears, showing different mail merge list sources.

As your contact information is already available as an Excel file, click on Use an Existing List.

Use Existing list

Note: You can also include your Outlook Contact list if you have Outlook connected to Word.

Step B
In the dialog box that pops up, select the Excel sheet you created earlier and click Open.

open button

Step C
A Select Table window appears. Choose the Excel worksheet you want to merge with the Word template and click OK.

Ok button

Note: If your Excel spreadsheet has only one worksheet, you’ll only see Sheet1 in the Select Table window.

Step D
If you want to edit your mail merge recipients list, click on the Edit Recipient List tab.

In the Mail Merge Recipients window that pops up, clear the checkbox of the person you don’t want in your mailing list.

Edit recipient list

Anyone you remove from your recipient list in this step will be removed from any mail merge project that uses this data file in the future.

Step 4: Add personalized messages

The next step is to add personalized content (like contact names and addresses) to your form letter template (Word mail merge document).

In Word, you can insert three personalization variables into your document:

  • Insert Address Block — add a recipient’s address to your document.
  • Insert Greeting Line — include a personalized greeting or salutation in your letter.
  • Insert Merge Field — insert other mail merge fields from your Excel file.

Here’s a walkthrough on how to add all three personalization variables to your merge document (form letter):

Note: You can add a personalization variable at an insertion point of your choice in the Word document. For example, to add a greeting line before the body of your letter, simply place the text cursor at the point you want to add it.

Insertion point

A. Insert an Address block

To insert a recipient’s address from your Excel worksheet, click on Address Block from the Write & Insert Fields section. In the window that appears, choose an address block format of your choice and click OK.

Address block

An address placeholder («AddressBlock») will be inserted automatically into your letter.

Address block placeholder

B. Insert a Greeting Line

To insert a greeting line, click on Greeting Line from the Write & Insert fields section.
In the dialog box that pops up, select the format you want to use and click OK.

Greeting line tab

A greeting placeholder («GreetingLine») will be automatically added to your document.

Greeting line placeholder

C. Insert a Merge Field

You can also add other mail merge fields, like your contact’s first name, company name, email id, etc., from your Excel worksheet to your Word template.

To do this, click on Insert Merge Field from the Write & Insert fields group.
You can see a drop-down list of some mail merge labels. These labels are the column names in your Excel spreadsheet.

If you want to create a custom field, the easiest way is to add a column to your spreadsheet with the name of the custom field you want to make, like “birthday” or “pet name”. But you must do this before starting the mail merge process since you can’t edit your spreadsheet during mail merge.

Insert merge field

Click on the mail merge fields you want to add to your letter.
Here’s how my form letter looks after inserting the placeholders (mail merge fields) I needed:

Form letter

Note: You can also use the Match Fields feature to manually match your Excel column fields with the Word placeholders. This way, you can ensure that all the mail merge fields are accurately mapped to your Excel column names.

match fields

Step 5: Preview and finish the mail merge process

After personalizing the form letter for each recipient, you can preview the letters to see how they look with the data inserted from your Excel worksheet.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

Step A
Click on Preview Results under the Mailings tab.

Step B
To preview the result for each recipient, you can enter the recipient number (the corresponding row number in your Excel spreadsheet) in the text box.

For example, to preview the form letter for my second recipient — Brandon Walsh, I type “2” in the text box and click the Preview Results button.

Preview results

Note: You can also click on the Next and Previous buttons to quickly scroll through your mailing list to preview the letter for each person. 

If you realize someone who is scheduled to receive your bulk email should be removed from the recipient list, refer to Step 3 (D) for instructions.

Step C
After previewing the form letter, click on Finish & Merge to finish the Word mail merge process.

Finish and merge

From the drop-down list that appears, you can choose to:

  • Edit Individual Documents — if you want to edit each letter further, separately.
  • Print Documents — if you want to print the letters.
  • Send Email Messages — if you want to send the letters as emails.

Note: If you want to send the letters as email messages to a Gmail or Outlook contact, you must manually set up Gmail/Outlook with Word

Step 6: Save the form letter

After you’ve finished working with the merged document, you can save it by pressing the Ctrl+S keys or by going to the File menu and clicking Save or Save As.

You can also reuse the merged document for sending additional letters — just open it and click Yes when Word prompts you with this alert:

Word popup

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How to Use Mail Merge to Send Mass Emails

You can use mail merge to quickly create personalized emails for newsletters, promos, and other email marketing messages.

Here, your mailing list is the data file, while the email is the mail merge template.

We’ve seen how to use Excel and Word to create personalized form letters.
Just follow the same steps to send merged emails to your mailing list.

However, I don’t recommend using Microsoft Word to send personalized emails at scale. Here’s why…

2 Problems of Using Microsoft Word to Send Mass Emails

While you can use a Microsoft Word document to create merged emails, there are two major drawbacks with this approach:

  • To send the merged document as an email message, you must manually set up Microsoft Outlook or Gmail with Word. This can be time-consuming and confusing for most users.
  • Microsoft Word isn’t well-equipped to handle mail merges. If your personalization tags are mismatched and there are hundreds of recipients (you can’t preview every email, can you?), you could end up sending something like this:

Wrong mail merge

Image Source: Twitter

Now, imagine sending hundreds of such embarrassing emails!
That’s why it’s smarter to use a dedicated mail merge tool like GMass to send mass emails.

How to Use Mail Merge with GMass to Send Mass Emails

Gmass

GMass is a powerful mail merge tool that lets you easily create and send tons of emails from your Gmail account.

Its advanced mail merge features have made it a popular tool used by employees from LinkedIn, Uber, Google, and Twitter. GMass is also perfect for individuals and groups like clubs, schools, churches, and other institutions to send emails to a target audience.

With GMass, you can easily create a mail merge with a data file stored as an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Sheet.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Import your Excel spreadsheet into Google Sheets

The first step is to import your Excel file into Google Sheets (this takes only a few seconds).

Why would you want to do this?
Because Google Sheets is far more powerful than Microsoft Excel for mail merging. Its automatic cloud-sync feature auto-saves your work with each edit made in the spreadsheet.

Plus, if you’re sending emails, it makes sense to have your spreadsheet online, right?

Additionally, Google Sheets is completely free and can be used by anyone with a Google (Gmail or Google Workspace) account. You won’t need a Microsoft Office subscription!

Note: If your data file is a CSV file, you can also import it into Google Sheets.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to import your Excel document into Google Sheets:

Note: I’ll be using the Excel sheet shown in the screenshot below for the walkthrough.

Enter Contact information

Step A
Open Google Sheets.

Open sheets

Step B
Select the folder icon to open the Google Sheets File Picker.

folder icon

Step C
In the window that appears, click on the Upload tab to import your Excel sheet.

Upload

Step D
You can now choose the file you want to import from your computer. To select the file, click on the Select a file from your device button.

Select a file

Step E
Choose the Excel file you want to import from your computer and click on the Open button.

Open button

Step F
Your file will be automatically imported as a new Google spreadsheet, which becomes your mail merge recipient list and data file.

Step 2: Format your Google Sheet

Your Google Sheet must be well-formatted before you use it with GMass.
But don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as formatting your Excel spreadsheet.

Here are some guidelines to ensure it works well:

  • Your column names must be in plain text — they shouldn’t contain spaces, codes, or special characters.
  • Your column names must begin from cell A1. If there are any blank rows or additional text (like a sheet title) above the column names, you must delete them.
  • The actual personalization data must begin from the second row onward.
  • There must be at least one column that has your recipients’ email addresses.

GMass will auto-detect all column names during the mail merge process. It will automatically use the column labels in your Google Sheet as the placeholders in your email template.

Step 3: Install GMass and connect it to your Gmail account

If you haven’t installed the GMass Chrome extension yet, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to install and connect it to your Gmail account quickly:

Step A
Head to the Chrome Web Store page for GMass.

Step B
Click on the Add to Chrome button.

Add to chrome button

Step C
A dialog box pops up:

Gmass popup

Click on the Add extension button to add GMass to Chrome.

Step D
Log in to the Gmail account you want to use with GMass.

After logging in, you can see three new GMass buttons next to your Gmail search box.

Three icons

Click on one of these buttons, and you’ll be prompted to link your Gmail account to GMass:

gmass prompt

Click on the Connect GMass Now! button to connect your Gmail account with GMass.

Note: Simply installing the GMass extension doesn’t create a GMass account. It only makes the buttons appear in your Gmail account. You have to link it to your Gmail account (as above) to activate it.

Step 4: Connect your Google Sheet to GMass

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to perform this last step:

Step A
Open your Gmail account and click on the GMass spreadsheet button near your Gmail search box.

gmass spreadsheet icon

Step B
A dialog window appears:

Connect to spreadsheet

Step C
You can now use the drop-down menu to choose the Google sheet you want to use for the mail merge.

Choose a spreadsheet

Note: If you have only one sheet (Sheet1) in your Google spreadsheet, that sheet gets chosen by default. However, if your spreadsheet has multiple sheets, you can select the sheet you want from the drop-down list. 

Once you’ve chosen a spreadsheet, click on the CONNECT TO SPREADSHEET button.

Step D
Now, GMass will auto-read all your recipients’ data from your Google sheet. It will also automatically insert their email addresses in the To field of a new email.

Note: GMass replaces the list of individual email addresses with a single alias address

New message tab

However, you can choose to display the email addresses individually. This way, you’ll be able to see the email IDs of everyone on your recipient list — but don’t worry, each recipient will see only their email address (just like when you add recipients to the BCC field).

BCC field

Step E
After a new email window appears, you can compose your email with GMass’ powerful personalization features. To use these personalization settings, click on the settings arrow near the GMass button.

Gmass icon arrow

Click on the Personalize drop-down list button to see all the column names present in your Google sheet.

Column names

To personalize your email, select the column labels from the drop-down list. You can add these placeholders anywhere in your email message and subject line.

Here’s how my personalized email looks like with placeholders:

Personalized email

Notice the {FirstName} variable?
That’s a personalization label corresponding to the column header FirstName in my Google Sheet.

Step F
After composing your email, click on the GMass button to send it to all your recipients.

Note: GMass will auto-personalize the email for each person based on the mail merge labels you’ve used in your message. 

For example, the third recipient of my email, Ron Carey, will receive an email that starts with “Dear Ron,” as the {FirstName} variable was used in the email message.

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Now that we’ve seen how to use mail merge to send mass emails let’s check out some important mail merge FAQs.

7 Mail Merge FAQs

Here are the answers to seven commonly asked questions regarding mail merge:

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of email mail merge?

Mail merge for your email marketing or cold emailing has several strong advantages, such as:

  • Personalization: Mail merge personalization makes your form letter sound like individual correspondence, so it’s more likely to be read.
  • Saves time: Once you set up your mail merge template, it takes relatively little time to create a large number of personalized messages because it’s tied to your Excel data — the single spreadsheet where all personalized information is kept.
  • Controls the appearance of your message: A mail merge template lets you manage how the type and images look, so your email is attractive even where the personalized content is different.
  • Allows for testing: You can quickly adapt a template to create two versions of the message for A/B testing. This way, you can effortlessly know what version of your message works best.

On the other hand, a mail merge also has some disadvantages for email campaigns:

  • May require additional software: To go beyond the features of Microsoft Word, you may need email merge software, like GMass, with advanced features to automate data collection or add conditional formatting.
  • Requires accuracy: If your Microsoft Excel database is incomplete, inaccurate, out of date, or saved under a new name, then mail merge may not work.
  • Risk of error: If you make a mistake in your mail merge template or personalization data, that error will get reproduced on all the emails that use those elements. As a result, it’s essential to allow time to test your email before sending it to your entire list.

2. Can you perform an email merge with an attachment?

When you’re using Word, you don’t have the option to include an attachment with a standard mail merge message, but you can if you use the Mail Merge Toolkit add-in for Microsoft Office.

However, if you’re after a better solution, use a purpose-built mail merge platform like GMass that not only lets you include an attachment but even allows you to choose different attachments for each recipient.

Read more about how to send a mass email with personalized attachments.

3. How do you use a Mail Merge Toolkit in Word?

The Mail Merge Toolkit for Word is a third-party add-in that lets you do more personalization than the standard Word mail merge alone (for example, including attachments).

You can download a free trial and view an online toolkit tutorial to get started. Once you have the program, go to the Start Mail Merge selection under the Mailings tab and follow the prompts.

4. Can you send a mail merge from a shared mailbox?

If you want to send a mail merge from a shared mailbox (such as from an email address named for a department, company, or event instead of a person), you can arrange it in Outlook.

Start by finding the “Other User’s Folder” and open it to navigate to the shared mailbox. Associate that mailbox with the spreadsheet that contains your recipients’ data and prepare the mail merge as usual.

5. How do you do a mail merge in Word for labels?

One of the coolest features of MS Word’s mail merge functionality is the ability to drive printed labels with placement designed in Word and data-driven by your personalization datasheet.

If you know how to do a letter or email mail merge in Word, labels are very easy.

Under the Mailings tab in Word, click the Start Mail Merge selection and then the Step-by-Step Mail Merge Wizard. Choose Label as your template document type, and under Label Options, select a label manufacturer and style number (for example, Avery 5160, etc.).

From there, follow the wizard’s prompts.

You may also want to view Microsoft’s brief and helpful video tutorial.

6. How do you do a mail merge with Outlook?

To create an Outlook mail merge, you’ll need to use Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook.

Starting in Word, choose the Mailings menu, then Start Email Merge, and then Email Messages.

When your message is ready, click Select Recipients to link to the Excel spreadsheet with your data. Then, select Finish & Merge to send your email to your list using Outlook.

For more info, read my article on performing a mail merge in Outlook.

7. What is extended mail merge?

If you’re a Salesforce user, you have two options for mail merge — standard and extended.

Standard mail merge is the preferred approach for those with specific CRM software and operating systems, such as Luminate CRM and Windows 10.

Extended mail merge is a mail merge tool for all other Salesforce users. Although the tools are different, the results are the same — personalized emails to recipients listed in Salesforce.

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Final Thoughts

Mail merging isn’t rocket science.

While you can use Microsoft Word to perform mail merges for letters, you need to follow a large number of steps correctly. Additionally, for sending mass emails, you have to set up a webmail client with Word manually.

Instead, why not use a powerful mail merge tool like GMass for sending mass emails?

Its advanced mass mailing features help you to perform mail merges and send out bulk emails effortlessly.

Why not try GMass today and simplify your mail merge experience?

6 Comments
  1. Hi – will the recipients of an email from GMass merge see that they are part of a mass mail? E.g. if someone hits Reply All instead of Reply, will all email addresses in that mail out show up in their To field?
    Thanks

    Josh

  2. You didn’t mention earlier that it will not permit more than 50 emails. I just wasted three hours of the day learning to set up and ending up missing my deadline. Dishonest folks.

  3. can we do mail merge with multiple email ids?
    I mean I have 5 email accounts and I need to send emails to 50 users in a way that 10 users receive email from one mail id.
    Can we do this? I have India.support, usa.support, uk.support, ksa.support, uae.support and I need to send introduction email to users from respective countries. Is there anyway I can do that? All 5 email ids are configured in my outlook.

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