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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.
From the human being's point of view, the actual Word mail merge is a relatively straightforward process. We just click a button under Finish and Merge, and Word does all the work. However, under the hood, mail merge is relatively complex, with Word requesting and using data files from other applications to create totally new documents. In this session, we'll look at some fixes for some of the more common issues that arise during a Word mail merge. Before I continue, however, because we know Word is doing a lot of work, if you're doing a merge with hundreds or thousands of records, this is not a good time to play a game of Solitaire or to have five other applications running.
Word needs lots a resource to access lots of data records for the merge. So this is a good time to close down other applications. That will fix many of your issues with large data sources. Let's take a look at our letter here. Here's the basic rule. We have two different types of files we're putting together. The file that we see here in Word contains field codes and then all the constant information. So if we have an error that appears in every single letter, the odds are very good that we're going to find it here in Word, not in our data source. So if we are previewing our results here, and we tab through, use the next button in order find our next recipient, we find a spelling error, and that spelling error doesn't change.
That spelling error is here in our primary letter. We forgot to proof it. So we can right-click, and we can fix the spelling here on location. Notice that we have an issue here with everyone. Let's go fix that as well, and now we've fixed all of these letters at one time. The next thing you might want to take a look at is punctuation, because if you have missing punctuation near a field code, Word Grammar Check will almost never catch it. For example, we have "Thank you for agreeing to take a leadership role in our next meeting." First, and there should be a period here.
There isn't one, and nothing tells you there should be. You actually have to visually check to make sure that the punctuation is correct near your field codes. So catch those as you go through. The next thing is you want to make sure that your formatting is good, and there's two possibilities here. First, your data source has formatting in it, and that formatting, most of the time, will have no affect on your letter. But sometimes it will, and it depends how the data source gets connected to your Microsoft Word document.
If you're working with Word merges that we've created in previous versions of Word, or have been used in your organization for a number of years, they probably use a kind of linking called Dynamic Data Exchange, and with DDE all of the formatting from your source document comes over to this document. Now Character Formatting, like Font Formatting, you can still manage here. So I have, for example, Calibri, and if I want to make sure that I use Calibri through my whole document, I can just pick up the format painter, or I can select all my text and choose one font for all of my text and make sure that it is standardized.
You can also choose one font size for all of my text, and I'm formatting not just my regular text, but my field codes. It would be a good idea, when I'm all done, to update normal to match that selection here in my styles list. But if after having done this I have text come through with different formatting, go back and attempt to format your field codes, rather than trying to deal with that in your data source. So what kind of errors can occur that come from your data source? Well, the primary error that you'll have in your data source is where one record has incomplete information, or incorrect information.
For example, when I preview my results and I go through, what I'll find is that I have some folks who actually don't have a Company Name, and if every person here should have a company, like Ross Atkins does not here, I can't fix that here. Clearly, the Company Code is in my letter, because the company appears for Shelley, and the company appears for Warren. So I'll need to actually go back into my data source and correct that. I can go into Edit Recipient List and actually go take a look, and some of my data source types, like the data source I create, I can edit here.
I can't edit this one, because it's in Excel. I'll actually need to go into Excel and edit that Data Source, or select Edit here. So if I add a Company Name for Ross and having entered this, go ahead and click OK, and I'm actually updating my Excel file, that's what I have been asked to update, XLSX. So yes, I'd like to like to update my Excel file and click OK. Now it might be that the kind of connection you have to a data source doesn't even allow you to do that. You go click Edit, you even make a change, and it says you can't.
In that case, you might have to go open that data source directly or talk to the person who maintains that data source on a regular basis. And the last thing that we are going to deal with is we're going to deal with this formatting issue, where we have a lot of extra spacing here in our address block, and we'll simply go into our letter and fix that, and by doing so, we will be fixing it again in every single letter. Again, another good example of an issue that's in our primary file, rather than in our data source. When you understand the difference between your primary mail merge letter and your secondary data source from Excel, Outlook, Access, or somewhere else, you won't have much difficulty tracking and fixing errors that occur in your final mail merged letters.
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