Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Conditional Processing During a Mail Merge.

Conditional Processing During a Mail Merge

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 2, 2016)

When using Word's mail merge feature, you are not limited to using only the actual data fields when putting together your merge document. Word also includes special fields that allow you to conditionally control how Word does the merging. These types of fields can be easily inserted by clicking on the Insert Word Field drop-down list on the Mail Merge toolbar. The three fields you can use for conditional processing are as follows:

  • If ... Then ... Else. Use this field if you want to do a comparison between a data field and a value, and then take some action based on the comparison. This field is equivalent to the construct of the same name used in many programming languages.
  • Next Record If. Use this field if you want to compare the contents of a data field to a value, and then jump to the next record if the comparison is true.
  • Skip Record If. Use this field when you want to compare the contents of a data field to a value, and then ignore the current data record if the comparison is true.

You cannot use Word's conditional mail-merge fields to compare values in any record other than the current one. It would be very nice to compare the contents of a data field in the current record with the contents of the same data field in the previous record, but Word will unfortunately not allow it.

One possible workaround to this shortcoming—if you are using an Excel worksheet as your data source—is to simply copy the controlling field (column) to another column, and then offset it by one row. Here is an example:

Item Category OldCat
Dogs 1
Cats 1 1
Birds 2 1
Pigs 3 2

As Word processes each record of the data source, the value of the OldCat data field is the same as the contents of the Category data field in the previous record. Thus, you could use a compound field such as the following to check and act upon the comparison between the fields:

{IF {MERGEFIELD Category} <> {MERGEFIELD OldCat} "first text" "second text"}

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (287) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Conditional Processing During a Mail Merge.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Ignoring Paragraph Marks when Pasting

Paste information in a worksheet, and you may end up with Excel placing it into lots of different cells. If you want it to ...

Discover More

Patterns of Numbers with a Formula

Want to create a sequential pattern using formulas? It's easy to do if you take a look at how your data repeats. This tip ...

Discover More

Searching for Comment Marks

Got a bunch of comments in your document? You can easily jump from one comment to the other by using the Object Browser, as ...

Discover More

Learning Made Easy! Quickly teach yourself how to format, publish, and share your content using Word 2013. With Step by Step, you set the pace, building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them! Check out Microsoft Word 2013 Step by Step today!

MORE WORDTIPS (MENU)

Creating a Mail Merge Data File

An easy way to perform a mail merge starts with creating a data file in a Word document. This tip shows how you can create ...

Discover More

Grouping Records in a Mail Merge

Need to group records in some manner when they are used in a mail merge? It can be frustrating when your records are not ...

Discover More

Getting Rid of Mail Merge Section Breaks

When you create a group of documents from a merge file, Word normally inserts section breaks between iterations of the ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
Share