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In Word 2010: Mail Merge in Depth, author Gini Courter demonstrates how to take advantage of Word's Mail Merge feature to save a tremendous amount of time creating customized documents. The course offers tutorials on creating letters, emails, envelopes, and labels. It also shows how to use Mail Merge with Outlook and Excel, creating data sources, inserting fields, using IF and other rules for customized merges, and troubleshooting Mail Merge issues. Exercise files are included with the course.
Mail merge requires two documents. The first is a Word document that contains text used in every single letter or e-mail message. Let's look at an existing letter and decide what portions of it would be used in every letter and what portions are variable text. I'm in the middle of creating a letter that I need to send out to invite people to a meeting, thinking, "Oh, I'll just copy and paste here, different names and different address blocks." Then I realize, "Wow! I should be turning this into a mail merge document. It would be much faster and much easier." So, I'm going to highlight the text that would be different in each letter.
You don't need to do this to do mail merge; however, you do need to understand what variable text is because we'll need to get that information from a data source. First, we have the date. Everyone's letter will be sent on the same date. Next, we have an address block that includes names and business addresses, and that will be variable text. Now, we have Dear, person's first name. The first name will be different. This letter will say, Annette, and the next one will say Joe, and the next one will say Jeff, and so on. But as we add this variable text later, we'll also make the Dear variable.
The reason is we might have a letter where there's absolutely no person listed, all that's listed is a company name, and we'll want to not have letters sent out that say, Dear, blank if there is no name there. So, later on, we'll learn that that's also variable text. Further down we have a place that we're thanking Annette in advance for her attendance. So, another piece of variable text - we want to thank each person by name, and by putting that close to the end of the letter, it actually makes it feel more personal. Not, thank you for coming, whoever you are, but thank you Annette, so she'll be more motivated to come to our meeting.
Now that we've identified the variable text, we know all the rest of the text in the letter is constant text. It will be the same for every single recipient. We're ready to take this letter and say, yes, we could use this for a mail merge. So, we'll go to the Mailings tab, choose Start Mail Merge and say, we're going to use this to create letters. Not much happened, but this letter has now been identified to Word as a mail merge letter. If we'd wanted to treat it as a regular document, we'd actually have to go back to Start Mail Merge and turn it back into a normal Word document.
Since this is a mail merge letter, let's now save it with the new name that will remind us that we're using it for mail merge. Let's choose File > Save As, and let's save this and put "merge" at the start of it's name: Merge-Simple Letter and click Save. Now that we've identified all of the variable text, and therefore, the constant text in our letter, we're ready to move on to the next stage of Microsoft Word mail merge.
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