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Formatting Microsoft Word mail merge fields using switches

Microsoft Word has a powerful feature that can alter how the text appears in your finished merged document, for example, if you have source data (a spreadsheet with a list of names and fax numbers in Excel) that contains names in mixed upper and lower case, it may look unprofessional to include lower case letters in the persons first or last name. Microsoft Word can automatically capitalize the first letter of each word of a merged field with the use of “switches”. Switches are powerful because we can control how the data will appear in the merged document. Sometimes, formatting is lost from the original source data so commas or other characters may not appear properly formatted on the merged Microsoft Word document.

TIP: If you are using Excel as your data source, we always recommend to set the entire column that contains the “Fax Number” to be formatted as “text” (click the column header so all cells are selected, right-click and select “Format Cells”, Choose “text” from the list of available formatting options.) Selecting “text” prevents Excel from automatically formatting the cell contents. If you would like Excel to automatically format the cells as a fax number, you can select “Special” and choose “phone number”.

How to add a “switch” to any merge field on your document:

  1. Right click your mouse on the mail merge field and select the Toggle Field Codes option from the popup menu. Your merged field will now look something like this:
    {MERGEFIELD FieldName}
    where “FieldName” is replaced with the name of the actual merge field.
  2. To insert a special formatting “switch” code, you enter a “\” character after the field name, and inside (before) the closed curly bracket. For example, to have Microsoft Word enter a number with a comma (a dollar amount for example), you could enter : \##,###Your merged field now looks like this:
    {MERGEFIELD FieldName \##,###} 
  3. Right click on the field again and select Toggle Field Codes to turn if the field codes off.

Now when you document is merged, Microsoft Word will display output in ##,### format, assuming that field is a number, it could display 12,345.

More reading on this topic:

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10things/10-power-tricks-for-using-word-field-switches/2449
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/numeric-picture-field-switch-HP005186226.aspx
http://www.ehow.com/how_4619985_numbers-ms-word-mail-merge.html

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