Perform a Microsoft Word Mail Merge from Within Excel

Learn to merge data from Excel into Word

Computer keyboard with Mail button being pressed

Getty Images/ TARIK KIZILKAYA

The Mail Merge feature in Microsoft Word and Excel simplify the process of sending the same document, but with personalized changes, to several recipients. The term merge comes from the fact that one document (a letter, for example) is merged with a data source document, such as a spreadsheet.

Note: The information in this article applies to Excel 2019, Excel 2016, Excel 2013, Excel 2010, Excel 2007. The mail merge feature is compatible with Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Word 2010.

Prepare the Data for Mail Merge

Word's Mail Merge feature works seamlessly with data from Excel. While Word also allows you to create a data source, options for using this data are limited. If you already have your mailing list data in a spreadsheet, it doesn't make sense to retype all the information into Word's data source.

Theoretically, any Excel worksheet can be in a Word mail merge function without any special preparation. However, you should take some time to prepare your worksheet to optimize the mail merge process.

Screenshot of Excel showing data ready to be merged in Word

Organize the Spreadsheet Data

Your Excel mailing list data should be organized neatly into rows and columns. Think of each row as a single record and each column as a field you are going to insert into your document. If you need a refresher, check out an Excel data-entry tutorial.

Create a Header Row

Create a header row for the sheet you intend to use for the mail merge. A header row is a row containing labels that identify the data in the cells beneath it. Excel can be finicky sometimes about differentiating between data and labels, so make these clear by using bold text, cell borders, and cell shading that are unique to the header row. This ensures that Excel differentiates it from the rest of your data.

Screenshot of Excel showing header data

Later when you merge the mailing list data with the main document, the labels appear as the names of the merge fields. This eliminates any confusion as to what data is inserted into your document.

It's a good practice to label the columns in your Excel worksheet. It helps prevent errors in the future.

Put All Data on a Single Sheet

The mailing list data you intend to use for the mail merge must be on one sheet. If it is spread across multiple sheets, combine the sheets or perform multiple mail merges. Also, make sure the sheets are clearly named, as you have to select the sheet you intend to use without viewing it.

Screenshot of Word showing how to insert an existing list

Associate a Data Source in a Mail Merge

To associate your prepared Excel worksheet containing your mailing list with your Word document:

  1. In Word, select the Mailings tab.

  2. Select Start Mail Merge and choose a document type from the drop-down list.

    In this tutorial, the worksheet data will be added to a letter. Choose Letters to follow along.

  3. From the Mailings tab, select Select Recipients and choose a mailing list type from the drop-down list.

    In this tutorial, the mailing list data is in a saved Excel worksheet. Choose Use an Existing List to follow along.

  4. From the Select Data Source dialog box, find and select your Excel file that contains the mailing list data and select Open.

  5. From the Select Table dialog box, select the worksheet that contains the mailing list data.

    If your Excel has column headers, ensure the First row of data contains column headers option is checked.

  6. Select OK.

After the data source has been associated with the main document, it's time to enter text or edit your Word document. You cannot, however, make changes to your data source in Excel. If you need to make changes to the data, close the document in Word before opening the data source in Excel.

Screenshot of Excel showing the insertion of Merge Fields

Insert Merge Fields into Your Document

  1. In Word, select Mailings > Insert Merge Field to open the Insert Merge Field dialog box.

  2. Choose the field you want to add to your document and select Insert.

View Mail Merge Documents

When inserting merge fields into a document, Word does not carry over the formatting of the data from the data source. If you want to apply formatting such as italics, bold, or underline, you must do so in Word.

If you are viewing the document with fields, select the double arrows on both sides of the field to which you want to apply the formatting. If you are viewing the merged data in the document, highlight the text you wish to change.

Any formatting changes are carried throughout all the merged documents, not just the individual one.

Preview the Merged Documents

To preview the merged documents, select Preview Results on the Mailings tab. This button works like a toggle switch, so if you want to go back to viewing just the fields and not the data they contain, select it again.

Navigate through the merged documents using the navigational buttons on the Mailings tab ribbon. They are, from left to right: First RecordPrevious RecordGo To RecordNext Record, and Last Record.

GIF showing data merged into Word

Before you merge the documents, preview them all, or as many as you can to verify that everything merged correctly. Pay particular attention to punctuation and spacing around the merged data.


Finalize the Mail Merge Document

When you are ready to merge the documents, you have two choices.

  • Print Documents: The first is to merge them to the printer. If you choose this option, the documents are sent to the printer without any modification. You can merge to the printer by selecting Mailings > Finish & Merge > Print Documents
  • Edit Individual Documents: If you need to personalize some or all of the documents (although, you would be wise to add a note field in the data source for personalized notes) or make any other changes before you print, edit each individual document. To do this, select Mailings > Finish & Merge > Edit Individual Documents.
Screenshot of Word showing the Print option for Mail Merge

Whichever method you choose, you are presented with a dialog box in which you can tell Word to merge all records, the current record, or a range of records. Choose the records you want to print and select OK.

If you want to merge a range, enter the beginning number and the final number for the records you want to include in the merge and select OK.

If you chose to print the documents, after the dialog box comes up, you are presented with the Print dialog box. You can interact with it the same as you would for any other document.