How to Perform a Mail Merge in Word 2013 - dummies

How to Perform a Mail Merge in Word 2013

By Lois Lowe

Word 2013 has a useful feature called mail merge. A mail merge combines a data list, usually of names and addresses (that is, mailing information), with a form letter, a label, or an envelope template to produce customized copies of the letter for each person.

Big companies use mail merge to mail customized advertisements, but it’s not just for businesses. Home users can take advantage of mail merge for Christmas card mailing labels, party invitations, club newsletters, and more.

Performing a mail merge is a three-step process:

  1. Create (or identify) the data source.

  2. Create the main document and then insert the merge codes in it.

  3. Perform the merge operation between the data source and the main document.

The data source must be a delimited file. In other words, there has to be some consistent way that it distinguishes between one column or row of data and the next. Here are some possible data source types:

  • Excel or Word table: If the data source is an Excel spreadsheet, each type of information is in a separate column. The same goes if the data source is a Word table.


  • Plain text: If the data source is a plain text file, each column is delimited (separated) by a specific character, such as a tab or a comma. When a delimited text file uses commas, it’s a Comma Separated Values, or CSV, file.


  • Outlook: If the data source is an Outlook Contacts list, each type of information is in a separate field.

  • Word list: If you don’t have a data source already, choose Mailings→Select Recipients→Type New List to create one with the Type New List feature in Word.

A data file shouldn’t contain anything except the data (and perhaps a single row of field labels, with Name, Address, City, State, and ZIP). Don’t use any blank rows or titles at the top of the page because that confuses the Mail Merge utility. Check your data file to remove extraneous rows before using the file as your mail merge source.

After preparing the data file, you set up the main document. You can either create the main document from scratch, or you can start with an existing document and convert it to be a mail merge main document. The main document consists of regular text plus codes that show where the merge fields should be inserted.


Then, as the final step in the merge process, you bring together the two pieces. You can do so either by sending the results directly to the printer or by creating a new document that contains the merge, which you can then edit as needed and then print.