Create Personalized Docs with Mail Merge

August 8, 2008

Automation is the name of the game. With a simple spreadsheet and some document fields, you can automatically create personalized letters with information that’s relevant to specific recipients.

You don’t often hear tell of the urge to…mail merge. And that’s a shame, because this powerful tool lets you easily and automatically create any number of letters that look personalized, documents with information relevant to each recipient, and even documents without recipients that have consistent elements. All you need is a boilerplate document that has fields—areas containing commands that replace themselves with information they pull from a database—and a database (or a simple spreadsheet as in the example that follows). It’s really quite cool, and I’m often surprised at how many people have no idea it exists.

To get to the cool, you do need to begin with a bit of organization. What kind of document are you sending? What are the variables? The obvious application for mail merge is sending multiple documents where only the names and addresses vary, but the more information that differs from message to message, the more mail merge makes sense. In this how-to, we look at sending mail-merged paper documents and e-mail. Performing mail merges is more about understanding the theory than knowing precisely where to click. That said, these examples use Office 2007; in Word 2003, rather than inserting fields from the Mailings tab, you go to Tools | Letters and Mailings | Mail Merge

July 1, 2008
Computer 2000
1910 S. Wacker Drive, Apt #1A
Des Moines, IA 50315
Dear Marv,

You type the constant elements of the document and give Word directions for filling in the variables:

[date]
[first name] [last name]
[address][apt]
[city], [state] [ZIP]
Dear [first name],

Powered by Computer 2000

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One Response to “Create Personalized Docs with Mail Merge”


  1. Hi,

    Another field that you might want to add (we use this quite often at our workplace) is the website merge field. If there are specific website addresses that you need to add to each letter, for example, use this format:

    http://www.{merge field}

    Thanks,

    Richard Rinyai
    http://www.theprofessionalassistant.net


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