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Mail Merge: Definition, Functions, Examples & How to Create It

Last updated: Jan 21, 2024

Mail Merge: Definition, Functions, Examples & How to Create It
Cover image: Illustration of mail merge.

What Is Mail Merge?

Mail merge is a feature that you can find in most word processing and data applications. With mail merge, you can send letters or important documents with the same content to multiple recipients simultaneously.

The term is also often referred to as mass mailing since some mail merge examples include billing documents or invitation letters.

In some cases, this feature can also be applied in various business contexts, such as creating invoices, certificates, or even mass emails for promotional ads purposes.

Mail Merge Components

After understanding what is mail merge, you need to also discover the components within this feature. They are:

  • Data Source: database in the form of a spreadsheet, contact list, information including names, addresses, phone numbers, and more. It is used to fill in empty variables in the main document.
  • Main Document: A text-format document used as the main template.
  • Merge Fields: Empty spaces in the main document that will be filled with data from the data source.
  • Filtering Criteria: This can be utilized if you only want to create letters based on specific criteria, such as location or gender.
  • Merge Settings: Contains options to adjust data sorting, date formats, and other options that affect the layout and formatting of the document.

Mail Merge Function

This mailing feature is commonly found in word processing programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel.

In general, the mail merge function simplifies the creation of mass documents with uniform content and enables the delivery of documents to multiple recipients simultaneously. Additionally, it can also help you to:

1. Create Many Documents/Letters with the Same Content

This feature can be used to automatically generate many documents or letters with identical content.

For example, if you have a list of names and addresses of recipients, then it can replace this recipient information in the document without manually rewriting each document.

With such a mailing feature, you can ensure the consistency of your content, since all document copies will contain identical information which accordingly reduces the risk of human error.

2. Send Documents to Many Recipients at Once

Another benefit of this feature is for mass mailing, as you can send documents to many recipients at once.

Even though the basic document is the same, this mailing feature still allows for personalization by automatically inserting different data for each recipient.

3. Save Time and Resources

Merging your document can help you save time and improve the efficiency of the creation and delivery process. With this feature, tasks that previously took hours to complete manually can be automated quickly and efficiently.

Mail Merge Examples

Now, you can create identical content to be addressed to many different recipients simultaneously. To achieve this, you need to compose the core document or main document first.

To personalize the recipient's name based on the user database, you can insert specific formats.

Take a look at one of the mail merge examples below:

Example of mail merge to create and send messages to many people at once.
Figure 1: Example of mail merge to create and send messages to many people at once.

How to Mail Merge

To improve business performance efficiency, you need to learn how to mail merge your document in various leading platforms.

Here’s how to mail merge in some popular platforms.

1. Microsoft Excel

You can utilize Microsoft Excel to create a data source that will be useful during the process later on. Here are the steps:

  • Create a data source document. This source should be based on your needs and must be created manually. The data source can include recipient names, addresses, and other relevant information.
  • Ensure that the data is organized neatly in separate columns.
  • After organizing the data source, save the Excel document in CSV (Comma-Separated Values) format to ensure data compatibility in Microsoft Word.

2. Microsoft Word

  • Open the main document.
  • Create the content of the main document according to your needs. The main document can be a letter, invitation, etc.
  • Combine the data source (previously created in Microsoft Excel) with the main document.
  • Select the "Mailings" menu in Microsoft Word.
  • Click "Start Mail Merge”. Choose the menu according to your needs (options provided: Letters, Email Messages, Labels, Envelopes, and Directory).
  • Select the "Select Recipient" menu > click "Use Existing List."
  • Enter the data source previously created in Excel.
  • Arrange the document layout.
  • Preview the document before saving or printing.

3. Google Docs

In addition to Microsoft Word, you can also merge your document in Google Docs. Follow the steps below:

  • Prepare the data source (in Excel or Spreadsheet).
  • In Google Docs, you can use various document templates. Choose the one that suits your needs.
  • Clear placeholders; Company Name, Address, Recipient Name, etc.
  • Install an add-on called MailMerge. Click on the Extension menu tab > select Add-ons > click Get Add-on.
  • Type MailMerge in the search bar and press Enter.
  • Choose MailMerge from Quicklution and install.
  • After the MailMerge interface appears on the right side, select your data source.
  • Arrange placeholders and click Merge.
  • If a notification appears for the merged letter, click Yes.
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