My “Golden Rule” for earning top marks in a Mail Merge assessment is simple: start with 2 files, finish with 3. In almost every assessment the format is the same: you are given a Word document and a data source and you must create the third file as the result of the merge. It is equally important to understand the practical application of this process.
The image below outlines the main steps in the Mail Merge:
1. Select Recipients
The Select Recipients button offers 3 options:
- Type a New List…
- Use an Existing List…
- Choose from Outlook Contacts…
For assessment purposes, you will always select the Use an Existing List… option. This will open a browse dialogue window with which you navigate to the file which is to be your source of data.
The source of the data can be:
- an Excel worksheet
- a named range in an Excel worksheet
- an Access database table
- an Access database query
- a table in Microsoft Word document
- a CSV file
The First row of data contains column headers checkbox when selecting a data source is self-explanatory.
2. Edit Recipient List
Once you have connected the source you can edit the Recipient List by manually checking records using the checkboxes or using one of the following features:
- Find duplicates
You will most likely be instructed to filter the list so that a sub-set of the Recipient List is created. In the example below, the recordset has been filtered:
- by the Grade field
- where the grade is Equal to
- the value 12
The Sort function will put the results of the merge in a specific order, for example, if your data source is a class list you could sort by Grade and then by Surname so that the resulting merge is created or printed in that order (grouped by Grade and sorted alphabetically by surname for each of those grades).
If you select the Find Duplicates option, Word will present a list of duplicate records in the data source and allow you to deselect the duplicates should you choose to do so.
3. Insert Merge Field
Usually, the document that you are given to work with has placeholders in it that look something like this:
You must replace each placeholder with a Merge Field. The list of Merge Fields is populated from the data source:
- Excel: column headings
- Access: field names
- Word: table column headings
While you are in the process of inserting the Merge Fields, you can view the results of the inserted fields by activating Preview Results. It is less confusing to deactivate the preview when you are working with the Merge Fields. You can also navigate between records to view the different records.
A merge field looks like so: «Surname» — the use of the placeholders in question papers as mentioned above is slightly confusing in my opinion, but just think: “I must replace <<Surname>> with «Surname» ” and you will be fine!
You can select a Merge Field and apply formatting to it — the formatting is then applied to the text that is inserted during the merge.
Once you have inserted the Merge Fields, it is easier to see and work with them if you activate the Highlight Merge Fields option.
4. Finish & Merge
For assessment purposes, you will always select the Edit Individual Documents… option. This will cause a new Word document to be created and opened. This new Word document will have one page per record in the record source. You will most likely be instructed to save this document with a specific name and now you have your third document.
Do not be confused by the pop-up in this step: if you have applied a filter in Step 2, All means all the records in accordance with your selection of records. I have never seen the other 2 options in an assessment, but I think they are self-explanatory.
Start with 2 files, finish with 3!
The Rules options fall outside the scope of the curriculum.
I have seen a question that required the use of labels; I will deal with that in a separate post.