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What Is A Mail Merge?

What Is A Mail Merge

Date First Published: 21st November 2023

Topic: Computer Networking

Subtopic: Network Services

Article Type: Computer Terms & Definitions

Difficulty: Medium

Difficulty Level: 5/10

Learn more about what a mail merge is in this article.

A mail merge is the process of producing multiple letters or documents that are personalised to each recipient. This allows standard letters or documents to be easily customised using the recipient's personal information, such as email address, name, physical address, and phone number with some automation. The letter or document will be unique for each recipient using an associated data source, such as a list, spreadsheet, or database.

A mail merge is usually done in a word processing document that contains fixed text, which will be the same in each document, and placeholders that are replaced by text from the data source. The data source is usually a CSV, spreadsheet, or database which has fields or columns for each variable in the template. When the mail merge process is run, the word processor creates personalised output documents. This makes it useful for mass mailing (e.g. sending the same message to thousands of people) as it makes the documents more personal and saves manually having to write the recipient's details in each document.

Example Of A Mail Merge

Below is an example of a mail merge. The program capable of a mail merge would extract the personal information and place it in the fields below.

<<First_Name>> <<Last_Name>> <<House_number>> <<Town>> <<Postcode>> Dear <<First_Name>> Attached are the recommendations of this report.

Uses Of Mail Merge

Mail merges are often used in:

  • Emails - Usually used for mailing large recipient's lists. With mail merge, you can create an email template and personalise variables by inserting the required information from a data source.
  • Paper letters - Used to ensure that the contents, designs, and fonts will be the same throughout the letters, while the names, postal addresses, greeting lines, and other variables will be personalised. Once the data is merged, the letters can be printed and posted to recipients.
  • Envelopes and labels - Like paper letters, envelopes, print labels or mailing labels, these can also be created with custom data.
  • Directories - Mail merge allows different types of data sources to be combined into one document.

History

A mail merge goes back to early word processors on personal computers. It is believed that WordStar was the first word processor to provide this. WordPerfect also offered this capability for CP/M and MS-DOS systems. Later on, Microsoft Word added it.


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