An Introduction to Mail Merge and Its Uses

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Mail merge is a tool that simplifies the creation of a set of documents that are similar but contain unique and variable data elements by linking a database that contains those data elements to a document. The document contains merge fields where that unique data will be populated.

Mail merge saves you time and effort by automating the process of entering standardized pieces of data like names and addresses into a document.


For example, a form letter could be linked to a group of contacts in Outlook, and the letter might have a merge field for each contact's address, and one for the corresponding contact's name as part of the letter's salutation.

But mail merge is not just for the bulk creation of mass mailing letters and envelopes; mail merge offers advantages for the creation of a great variety of documents.

Uses of Mail Merge

Mail merge, for many people, conjures thoughts of junk mail. While it is an undeniable fact that mail merge can be used to generate large amounts of mail quickly and easily, its many other uses may surprise you and change the way you create some of your documents.

Mail merge can be used to create any type of printed document, as well as electronically distributed documents and faxes.

A mail merge consists of two main parts: the document and the data source, also referred to as the database.

The possibilities for the kinds of documents that can be created using a mail merge are virtually limitless. Here are some examples:

  • Catalogs
  • Inventories
  • Invoices
  • Labels
  • Envelopes
  • And, of course, letters

When used smartly, mail merge can greatly improve your productivity.

Mail Merge Data Sources for Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word simplifies your work by letting you use other Office applications such as Excel and Outlook as data sources.

If you have the full Office suite, using one of its applications as your data source is easy, convenient and highly recommended. Using contacts you have already entered into your Outlook contacts, for example, will save you from re-entering that information into another data source. Also, using an Excel spreadsheet gives you greater flexibility with your data than the data source Word will create. 

However, if you only have the Word application, you can still use the mail merge feature. Word has the ability to create a fully customizable data source for you to use in your mail merge.

Setting Up a Mail Merge

A mail merge may seem complicated—and complex, data-heavy documents that rely large databases can be—but Word simplifies the set up of a mail merge for common uses by providing wizards that walk you through the process of linking your document to a database. ​

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Your Citation
Marshall, James. "An Introduction to Mail Merge and Its Uses." ThoughtCo, Jun. 16, 2017, Marshall, James. (2017, June 16). An Introduction to Mail Merge and Its Uses. Retrieved from Marshall, James. "An Introduction to Mail Merge and Its Uses." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 21, 2017).