Word 2003: Mail Merge

Direct marketing exists more or less from direct communication with the customers. If advertising letters are to be sent for this purpose, a letter generally needs to be created and printed. The required form letter can be easily created with Word2003.m

Word2003 includes a mail merge wizard to link an existing or a new document with address data for the purpose of creating a form letter. It can be found in the 'Tools' menu, in the sub-menu 'Letters & mailing', and is called 'Mail merge'. The wizard will then be opened in the right part of the main window. Instead of buttons, the 'links' at the bottom serve to navigate between the six steps, which guide the user through the creation of a mail merge.

  1. Selecting document type: Since we want to create a form letter and not an email message, we select 'Letter'.
  2. Starting the document: You will probably select 'Use the current document'.
  3. Selecting recipients: If you have saved your addresses in an Excel file, select 'Use an existing list'. Open your file by using the 'Browse' link. Word will then show you a dialogue where you can filter or sort the addresses. This dialogue can also be accessed again at a later time by using the 'Edit recipient list’ link. Generally, you will have already prepared your addresses optimally outside of Word, so that you don’t need to use the option Word offers here. In doing so, make sure that the Excel file includes column headers in the first row, otherwise the columns of the address list cannot be matched with the individual variables of the form letter. You can read more about how to complete the column headings in the article 'Excel: Inserting column headings.
  4. Writing your letter: In this step, the variable elements are inserted into the text of the letter, which you have probably already written beforehand. Since the wizard is not very flexible in this point, it will not be described here in great detail. Further below, there is a description of how to create a form letter without using the wizard. If you are using the wizard, you have to start by inserting the address block. The address elements and the possible formats are shown in the dialogue used for configuring the address block. A preview can be found underneath, where you can see the effects of the currently selected settings. At the very bottom, there is a 'Merge fields' button used to match the address elements with the individual columns from the address list. When you close this dialogue by clicking on 'OK', the address block is inserted as a variable in the text of the letter. Furthermore, the letter can also be provided with a greeting line. However, the wizard’s corresponding configuration dialogue is not very flexible here. In particular, it is not possible to differentiate between greetings for men and for women.
  5. Preview your letters: Here, the letters are displayed such as they would be printed later. It is also still possible to remove individual recipients from the mailing list at this point, but it makes more sense to do so by editing the address list. If the text of the letter is changed at this point, these modifications will be effective for all recipients.
  6. Complete the merge: In this step, you can print the mail merge. Here, individual letters can still be customised for each recipient. However, since postal services generally require that all letters be identical except for the address block and the salutation in order to take advantage of cheaper postage for sales letters, this option should not be used.

As already mentioned, the wizard is not very flexible. For this reason, it is best not to use it at all in most cases. The following explains how mail merges can be created without the wizard:

  1. The functions required for this purpose are found on the mail merge toolbar. If it is not yet displayed, then you have to start by activating it by clicking on ‘Show mail merge toolbar’ item in the ‘Letters & mailings’ sub-menu of the ‘Tools’ menu.
  2. Select the ‘Main document setup’ button on the mail merge toolbar, and then the corresponding ‘Letters’ dialogue.
  3. Then we have to link the address list with the document. To do so, use the ‘Open data source’ button on the mail merge toolbar.
  4. By using the 'Mail merge recipients' button, we can look at the contents of the address table and still exclude individual addresses from printing if necessary.
  5. The address block can now be inserted with the 'Address block' button by using exactly the same dialogue as with the wizard. However, it is more flexible if you put the address block together by using the 'Insert merge field' button and then insert the required data fields from the address list individually. This way, for example, it is no problem to take account of two rows for the company name.
  6. If needed, we can now differentiate between greetings for men and for women in the salutation. To do this, we select 'If ... then ... else’ item in the context menu of the 'Rule' button. We then set the rule that always when the data field with the abbreviation for the salutation contains the term 'Mrs./Ms.', the greeting line is formulated as 'Dear Ms.', and otherwise 'Dear Mr.’. Then we insert the data field with the family name by using the ‘Insert merge field’ button. Of course, such rules can also be used in other parts of the letter for other purposes.
  7. Finally, the results can be examined by using the ‘Preview your letters' button and printed with the 'Merge to printer' button.

You can read more about how to use the DeduplicationWizard to prepare address lists optimally to generate a form letter in the article 'Preparing direct marketing campaigns with the DeduplicationWizard'.

Author: Thomas Hainke