Writing a letter can be tedious. But what happens when we have to write hundreds of letters? No problem with Word if we write serial letters with the appropriate data set (addresses, names). Serial letters are texts that are automatically adapted at certain points. For example in the greeting formula or the address. In just a few minutes, thousands of standardised letters can be created that are individually adapted for the recipient. These include labels, letters, envelopes and e-mails. We explain how to do this step by step in this tutorial.
Preparation data set
To create a form letter, we need a data set or a list of recipients. In our example, we use an Excel table that contains several pieces of information. In each row there is a person and in each column there are details such as title, first name, last name, email, gender, address, etc. This file is saved locally on the hard disk. This file is saved locally on the hard disk. We access this file later, so we should remember the location.
What should be taken into account with the data set?
- Values (percentages) should be correctly formatted and complete.
- The column names determine the name of the fields in the mail merge in Word. If only the first name is to be mentioned in the letter, then the first and last names must be stored in separate columns.
- Word will only consider the data in the first sheet of the table.
- The Excel data for the mail merge is stored locally on your computer.
Start Mail Merge Wizard
We navigate to the Mailings tab in the Start Mail Merge section and click the Start Mail Merge button.
A menu opens from where we select the option “Mail merge wizard” (red arrow).
On the right-hand side, a bar of the mail merge assistant opens. Here we select the document type. In our example we select Letters. Then we click on continue (red arrow).
In the next step we select the option “Use current document” and click on continue.
Determine data source
In step three we select the data source by clicking on Browse (red arrow).
Word prompts us to open the appropriate data source. In our example, we select an Excel table on the hard disk and click on Open.
Word asks us which table we want to insert. We put a tick on “First data series contains column headings” (green arrow).
Word lists all persons (cases) for us, the column headings were taken over correctly. If we do not want to include all persons in the list of recipients, we can remove the ticks from the corresponding persons. When we are satisfied, we click on OK (red arrow).
In the Use existing list area, we see that our Excel file has been successfully implemented. Let’s go to the next step by clicking on Next.
Writing the form letter
Now we come to the actual letter or email. Here we have to keep in mind that there will be two elements in the text: rigid and flexible. Rigid elements do not change and are the same in every letter. Flexible elements are bracketed with the characters “” and adapt individually to the recipient. We start our letter with a greeting line, on whose field we click (red arrow).
Alternatively, we can insert the greeting line like this: Transmissions tab > Write and Insert Fields > Greeting Line.
The Insert Greeting Line dialogue box appears. Here we select individual elements of our greeting formula. We adjust the individual sentence components with the fields and click OK when we are satisfied with the greeting line.
In the text we now see the field “Salutation”. The two “” symbols show us that these are flexible elements (placeholders).
Insert mail merge field
In our example, we write masses of notices. To do this, we type in a test with the keyboard as usual and use formats such as boldface or different font sizes. Formats are no problem for the form letter. The red arrow points to a place that should get the new insertion field “EMail”.
We first click on the place where we want the button to appear. Then we navigate to the Transmissions tab in the “Write and insert fields” area and click on the “Insert mail merge field” button.
In the menu we select the appropriate field. Word suggests the insertion fields that we imported and initially saw as column headers in the Excel table. We click on EMail to insert this field.
We can see that we have successfully inserted the “EMail” field. On the right hand side, the flexible fields have been manually highlighted in yellow to show which elements will adapt individually.
Of course, you can also insert the other elements such as address, city, postcode for your letter. Just try it out.
The finished e-mail or letter looks like this to the recipient:
We look again at the mail merge wizard on the right and click Next. In the next step we are in the preview. Here we can check how the letter will fit by clicking on the >> button (green arrow). If we do not find any errors, we click Next again (red arrow).
We are in the step End mail merge and click on Print.
A dialogue box opens. Here we can select the data set again. A click on OK starts the printing.
Mail merge works very similarly. To begin with, we select the option E-mail messages in the document type and run the mail merge wizard as described above.
In the last step, we do not print out the emails (which would be absurd), but adjust the fields accordingly. For example, we can determine the subject line for all recipients. With a click on OK, we send the emails out to hundreds of people.