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How to Use Word & Excel for Mail Merge (Step-by-Step Guide) 

Want to learn about mail merges and how to perform them?

A mail merge is an incredibly useful way to send personalized mass letters and emails quickly. In this article, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to send a letter and email mail merge using an Excel spreadsheet and a Word document.

This article includes:

(Click on the links to jump to a specific section)

What are mail merges?

Mail merges are one of the quickest ways to customize documents like emails, newsletters, and other personalized messages. A mail merge lets you create personalized documents that automatically vary on a recipient-by-recipient basis. This spares you the trouble of manually personalizing each document yourself!

Confused? Let me explain.

Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to send a holiday email or letter to your customers. However, you don’t want to send them a generic email or letter — you want each email to include unique greetings and mention their individual names and addresses.

Instead of manually creating separate emails or letters for each person, just perform a mail merge!
It will automatically add each person’s details to the email or letter you send them — sparing you the trouble of doing it yourself.

How does it work?

So how does a mail merge automatically personalize your emails and letters?

To know that, you need to understand the two key components of every mail merge:

  1. Template File – This is the document that you’ll be sending out — like a letter or an email. It contains placeholders for the personalization data (names, addresses, etc.) that are fetched from a data file.
  2. Data File – This is a data source like a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or a Google Sheets file. It contains the personalized information (names, addresses, etc.) that will be added to your template file.

A mail merge automatically adds the personalization data from your data file to your template file. 

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

If you want to perform a mail merge to create mass letters, your letter is the template file. It has placeholders for your contacts’ names and addresses.

Mail merge template file.

Notice the «FirstName», «Address» and other tags in the letter?
These are placeholders for your recipient’s details.

A spreadsheet that has all your contact details will be your data file.

Mail merge data file.

The mail merge function would then merge your data file and your letter template to generate individual letters for each person.

What can you use them for?

The real question should be — what can’t you use them for?!

Mail merges can be used to create personalized messages automatically for documents such as:

  • Marketing emails
  • Envelopes
  • Mailing labels
  • Newsletters
  • Custom catalogs
  • Form letters
  • And more!

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

If there’s a document type that needs to be personalized at scale, mail merges can take care of it for you!

How to use mail merge in Word and Excel to send letters (walkthrough guide)

You can use the mail merge feature in Word and Excel to create and print personalized mass letters quickly.

Here,

  • the mail merge template is a form letter in Microsoft Word

and

  • the data file is an Excel spreadsheet containing your recipients’ details.

Here’s a walkthrough guide on how to create a mail merge in Word and Excel to send mass letters:

A. Creating and formatting your address list in Microsoft Excel

The first step is creating and formatting your address list (data file). Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this in Excel:

Step 1
Open MS Excel.

Step 2
Click on Blank workbook to open a blank document in Excel.

Microsoft Excel open page.

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

Import CSV files into Excel by clicking on Data menu.

Step 3
Now you can start entering the details of your address list into the Excel spreadsheet.
Enter your column headers only in the first row, starting in cell A1.

Excel file with column names.The column headers in your Excel spreadsheet must be the same as the 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 Word document will also be “FirstName,” “LastName,” and “Email.”

Step 4
Enter your contact information as one record per row, starting in cell A2.

Excel data sheet.

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

  1. Select a column that has numeric data entries.
  2. Go to the Home > Number section.
    Excel number formatting group.
  3. Click on the Number Format box and choose the right format from the drop-down list that appears.
  4. Repeat steps 1–3 for all columns containing numeric values.
    Various number formats in Excel.

Step 5
Once you’re done creating the contact sheet, you can save your Excel document by pressing the Ctrl+S keys or by going to File > Save or File > Save As.

Note – Ensure that all edits to the Excel spreadsheet are done 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.

B. Creating the main document in MS Word

The next step is to create the form letter template (your main document) in MS Word. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

Step 1
Open a blank document in Word. This is the main document in your mail merge that will be sent to each recipient.

Word open window.

Step 2
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 creating a Word mail merge for sending letters, choose  Letters as your merge document.

Merge document type menu in Word.

Step 3 (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.

For example, the wizard lets you easily select the starting document for your mail merge. It lets you use the current document, a starter template, or an existing document as your mail merge template.

Mail merge wizard in Word.

Step 4
Write the body of the letter. (Don’t worry about manually adding placeholders in your letter yet.)

A letter in MS Word.

C. Selecting the recipient list

Now you can select the list of mail merge recipients who will receive your letter. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

Step 1
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.

Select Recipient menu in Word.
Note – You can also include your Outlook Contacts if you have Outlook connected to Word.

Step 2
In the dialog box that pops-up, select the Excel sheet you created earlier, and click Open.

MS Word's file picker window.

Step 3
A Select Table window appears. Choose the Excel worksheet you want to merge with the Word template and click OK.

Select the sheet from the Excel file.

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

Step 4
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 Recipients List Window in Word.

D. Adding personalized messages

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

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

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

Here’s a step-by-step guide 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.

An insertion point in a Word document.

Step 1 – Insert 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 insertion in MS Word.

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

Address block placeholder in Word document.

Step 2 – Insert 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.

Insert greeting line in Word.

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

Greeting line placeholder in Word doc.
Step 3 – Insert 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.

Insert Merge Field menu in MS Word.

Click on the mail merge fields you want to add to your letter.

This is how my form letter looks after inserting the placeholders I needed:

Form letter in Word.

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

Match Fields window in Word.

E. Previewing and finishing 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 you inserted from your Excel worksheet.

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

Step 1
Click on Preview Results under the Mailings tab.

Step 2
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 on the Preview Results button.

Previewing the form letter for a recipient.

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. 

Step 3
After previewing the form letter, click on Finish & Merge to finish the Word mail merge process.

Finish & Merge menu in Word.
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, you need to set up Outlook or Gmail with Word manually

F. Saving 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:

Reuse mail merge doc alert in Word.

How to use mail merge with Excel and GMass to send emails (walkthrough guide)

Mail merges are one of the easiest ways to send out mass emails. You can use it to quickly create personalized emails for newsletters, promos, and other email marketing messages.

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

Two problems using MS Word to send mass emails

While you can use Microsoft Word to create mail merges for mass emailing, there are two major drawbacks:

  • To send the merged document as an email message, you need to set up Microsoft Outlook or Gmail with Word manually. 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:

A funny mail merge fail.

Image Source: Twitter

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.

What is GMass?

GMass is a powerful mail-merge software 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 that’s used by employees from LinkedIn, Uber, Google, and Twitter.

However, GMass isn’t built only for email marketers. It can also be used by individuals and groups like clubs, schools, churches, and other institutions to send email to a target audience.

GMass webpage.

How to create an email mail merge with GMass

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

Here’s a detailed walkthrough guide on how to create a mail merge in Excel with GMass for mass emailing:

A. Importing 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 do you want to do this?
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?

What’s more?
Google Sheets is completely free and can be used by anyone with a Google (Gmail or G Suite) 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:

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

An Excel data sheet.

Step 1
Go to Google Sheets.

Google Sheets window.

Step 2
Select the folder icon to open the Google Sheets File Picker.

Click on the Sheets file picker.

Step 3
In the window that appears, click on the Upload tab to import your Excel sheet.

Google Sheets file picker.

Step 4
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.

Drag or select file to upload window.
Step 5
Choose the Excel file you want to import from your computer and click on the Open button.

Opening the Excel file into Google Sheets.

Step 6
Your file will be automatically imported as a new Google spreadsheet.

A Google sheet.

B. Formatting 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 any 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.

C. Installing GMass and connecting 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 1
Click here to go to the Chrome Web Store page for GMass.

Step 2
Click on the Add to Chrome button.

GMass Chrome Web Extension page.

Step 3
A dialog box pops-up:

Add GMass to Gmail dialog box.

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

Step 4
Log in to the Gmail account you want to use with GMass.

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

GMass buttons in Gmail inbox.

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

Connect GMass to Gmail dialog box.
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.

D. Connecting your Google Sheet to GMass

The last step is connecting your Google Sheet to GMass. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

Step 1
Open your Gmail account.

Step 2
Click on the GMass spreadsheet button near your Gmail search box.

Click on GMass spreadsheet button in Gmail inbox.

Step 3
A dialog window appears:

Connect GMass to Google Sheets dialog box.

Step 4
You can now use the drop-down menu to choose the Google sheet you want to use for the mail merge.

Connect the Google Sheet to GMass.

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

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

Step 5
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.

Gmail Compose window with email ids inserted by GMass.

Step 6
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 mail merge settings.

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

GMass personalization settings.

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

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

GMass mass email in Gmail.

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

Step 7
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.

Conclusion

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 quickly. So why not download the Chrome add-on and experience it right now?

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