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Creating a Mail Merge Data File

If you plan on printing documents that merge information from a data file, such as form letters, you will need to create the data file in such a way that Word knows how to process it. This data can be in a database program, in the Excel spreadsheet program, or directly in Word. If you are creating a simple, one-time mail merge document, chances are good that you will be using data that you put in a Word document.

Basically, the Word data file must have a header record and as many data records as you desire. The header record indicates the field names to be assigned to the fields in each record. The names in this header record correspond to the field names used in your master document. Each field in each data record of the file must correspond to one of the header fields. For instance, consider the following excerpt from a data file.

title first middle last
John Q. Public
Jean R. Smith
Wilma  Davis
Walter T. Avery

The first record indicates the field names; it is the header record. The other four records are the data records. Notice, also, that the third data record does not list any data corresponding to the data field named middle. As you create these data files, you can place the information in a Word table so the data is easier to visualize and work with. Each record will occupy a row of the table, and each field will occupy a cell in the row.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1369) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Val Arnott    11 Dec 2012, 10:09
When I merge the excel spreadsheet with a word document not all of the fields show up on the list. Is there a limit to the number of fields that I can merge or did I do something wrong?
Peter Mackin    24 Jun 2012, 03:26
Lawrence, The problem is that the title fields are all blank and the formatting of the data "table" is not correct. (Obviously, John and Wilma are not titles, they are first names.) If the title fields were populated, then the statement would be correct.

Peter Mackin
Lawrence H. Lund    23 Jun 2012, 09:12
This statement appears to be wrong.

 "Notice, also, that the third data record does not list any data corresponding to the data field named middle."

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