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Mail Merges with Microsoft Excel and Word: Part 1

Published on Tue, 07/09/2019 - 07:35am
Mailbox character reading long list

While email, instant messaging, and social media have become primary communication tools for many, you may still need to actually send old-fashioned paper mail from time to time. For example, you may send greeting cards or invitations for special events and holidays. Rather than hand address the envelopes or edit each invitation individually, consider using Microsoft Word, which is a great tool for creating personalized mail and mailing labels.

Personalizing letters and creating labels in Word is basically a two-step process. First, you create a mailing list of names and addresses, and then you merge that information into a letter or labels. The challenge with just using Word is that while you can create the mailing list, the process itself can be tedious and even confusing. Fortunately, there’s an easy substitute for this first step—create the mailing list in Microsoft Excel even has tools for formatting addresses that Word doesn’t have.

To create an address list in Excel:

  • Open a blank workbook in Excel.
  • Starting in A1, enter the column headings for the mailing information needed. In this example, I’m using: A1 – Last Name, B1 – First Name, C1 – Street, D1 – City, E1 – State, F1 – Zip. Press the Tab key after each entry to move to the right one cell.
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  • To widen the columns in line with the column letters, hover your mouse over the right boundary of the column that needs to be widened.
  • Your mouse turns into a plus sign with arrows pointing left and right.
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  • Double click to automatically adjust the column width or click and drag to manually resize the column.
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  • In A2, start typing the address, using the Tab key to move from one cell to the other. If you’re using Zip +4, don’t type the dashes. Excel will take care of that later. If you don’t know the +4 digits, be sure to add a placeholder, such as 0000.
  • Press the Enter key when all of the text for Row 2 has been entered.
  • Adjust the column widths as needed.
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  • As you type the rest of the names and addresses, you’ll see that Excel tries to autofill the information from a cell above the cell you’re filling. If Excel has guessed correctly, press Tab and go to the next cell. If the guess is incorrect, finish typing the entry as it should be.
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  • Excel has special formatting for social security numbers, phone numbers, and zip codes. You can either pre-format a column that will contain these numbers or format after you’ve typed the numbers. In this case, select column F by resting the mouse over the letter F and clicking the small down arrow.
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  • Click the Dialog Box Launcher arrow in the lower right of the Number group on the Home tab.
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  • From the Format Cells window, on the left, select the Special category, and then select either Zip or Zip +4.
  • Click OK.
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  • Your mailing list is now ready for Part 2 of our series where we’ll do a mail merge and create labels!
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In the meantime, if you’d like to update either your Word or Excel skills, be sure to register for our Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced Word or Excel programs listed in the Events section of our website. Want to study on your own time? Many courses are available through Universal Class, Lynda.com, and Hoonuit.

Terri M.
Consumer Technology Specialist

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