Video: Get to know mail merge

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When you communicate with customers through welcome letters, special announcements, thank you emails, or invoices, use mail merge to create personalized documents that get their attention.

Understand the mail merge process

The mail merge process involves three documents:

  • Your main document: This contains text and graphics that are identical for each version of the merged document. Examples of identical content include the return address on the envelope or the body of a letter.

  • Your mailing list: This contains the data that is used to fill in information in your main document. For example, your mailing list contains the addresses to be printed on the labels.

  • Your merged document: The combined main document and mailing list become the merged document. Information is pulled from your mailing list and inserted in duplicates of your main document, resulting in merged documents that are personalized for different people.

Consider mail merge possibilities

  • Letters: Create and print a batch of personalized letters for everyone on your mailing list. Each letter prints on a separate sheet of paper.

  • Email: Create and send email messages to each person on your mailing list.

  • Envelopes: Create and print a batch of envelopes for mailing.

  • Labels: Create and print sheets of mailing labels. Each label contains a unique mailing address.

Data sources

Word can pull data from a variety of data sources to perform mail merge. If you don't have a mailing list, create one during the mail merge process. Here are a few simple data source options:

  • Excel spreadsheet: Use an Excel spreadsheet, which works well as a data source for mail merge if all data is well-formatted and on one sheet.

  • Outlook Contacts list: Select recipients from your Outlook Contacts.

  • Word data file: Be sure that your Word document contains a single table. The first row of the table must contain headings, and the other rows must contain the records that you want to merge.

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Use mail merge to create and send bulk mail, labels, and envelopes

Other data sources you can use as your mailing list

Prepare your Excel 2016 data source for a Word mail merge

Use mail merge to send bulk email messages

Here's how mail merge works.

We start with a primary document that we create in Microsoft Word.

For example, we could use this letter.

Then, we insert structured data that was created elsewhere.

It might be a table from a database, an Excel spreadsheet, a CSV file, or contacts from Outlook.

Then we use that data source, along with this primary document, to create multiple personalized letters, each one individually addressed.

In Word, mail merge always requires two separate files.

The first file is that Word document that contains information that will be the same in every single letter, as well as instructions on where to place the variable data, the data that is different in each letter, and comes to us from a data source.

And the second file is going to be that data source, in this case, a table from Excel.

Now, it could also be Outlook contacts, or it could be data from Access or from any data source that you can connect to from Access or Excel, and we'll use the commands in the mail merge feature in Word to merge these two files together, and when we do, we'll get a separate letter for each recipient in our Excel table.

One for Michelle, one for Nehru, one for Pearl, one for Rafael, and one for Shellie.

By combining Word with a data source, we can also use mail merge to create customized email messages that we send from Outlook, where each recipient receives a customized email sent only to them, rather than us sending something to an entire group using BCC or using CC.

And then, we can also use a third type of mail merge called a directory merge to create a list or a directory.

For example, we could create a phone list using these same contacts from Excel, and rather than having five different letters, we would have one directory.

There are other things we can also do with mail merge.

We begin with a data source that's somewhere else.

Perhaps it's in Access, where it's difficult to format our data, but by bringing that into Word through mail merge, we get access to all the powerful formatting features that are available in Microsoft Word.

Whenever you find yourself creating multiple documents, whether it be letters or email messages or a directory using the same set of data, or creating a document, and then, typing over names and addresses, or typing names and addresses into a blank template, whether you're doing this in Word, or you're doing it in Outlook, there's almost always an opportunity for you to save time by using Word mail merge.

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