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Formatting Mail Merge fields

How to change the look of mail merge data like dates and dollar amounts.

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by Office for Mere Mortals

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Nancy M asks:

"I try to merge data (such as amount, PO#, to whom, as well as the date) from an Excel 2003 database. In the Excel database the amount cells are formatted for currency with 2 decimal places and the date cells are formatted as Feb. 25, 2011 - not 2/26/11. When I merge the files, the amount drops of the ending zeros (such as 68.5 and 128). The date appears as 2/26/11. "

When Word imports mail merge data it only imports the raw data, not the formatting used in Excel. That’s because Word has it‘s own formatting options.

See the merge codes (Alt + F9 - toggles the display of field codes vs results) then add formatting codes.

For example

{MERGEFIELD MoneyAmount}

becomes something like

{MERGEFIELD MoneyAmount \# "$,0.00;($,0.00)"}


For date fields try something like:

{MERGEFIELD Date \@ "d MMM yy"}
{MERGEFIELD Date \@ "d MMM yyyy"}
{MERGEFIELD Date \@ "d/M/yy"}
{MERGEFIELD Date \@ "M/d/yy"}


Failing that, the brute force approach is to make extra columns in the Excel worksheet that convert the amount/date into text cells formatted the way you like - then merge those text values instead of the numeric values.

But that should not be necessary - the Word formatting codes can handle it.

The Word field formatting codes are all listed in the Office Help files for your version of Office – though the options have not changed much (or at all) for many versions of Word.

Some other useful formatting codes for mail merges:


For US style numbers:

{MERGEFIELD Phone \# "(000) 000’-‘0000"}

For Australian numbers:

{MERGEFIELD Phone \# "(00) 0000’-‘0000"}


UK numbers are complicated with area codes between 2 to 5 digits in length. It would be best to store these numbers as text or in separate fields for area code and phone numbers.

Postal Codes

(if they are stored as numbers, not text):

US Zip codes – 5 digit

{MERGEFIELD Zip \# "00000"}


US Zip codes – 9 digit

{MERGEFIELD Zip \# "’00000’-’0000’"}


Australian Postcodes

{MERGEFIELD Postcode \# "0000"}


UK post codes includes letters and should be stored as text.


Another way

After publication, Don T. kindly wrote with an additional method:

"A mail merge in Word results in the data from Excel to display as raw data.

For example, in Excel the vaule is displayed as $19,087.23. When merged to Word it is displayed as 19087.2948576. This occurs because by default, Word 2003 and later versions use OLEDB to connect to the data source when performing a mail merge. Earlier versions used DDE connections.

When you use DDE to convert the Microsoft Access or Microsoft Excel data instead of ODBC, the data is "masked" to display the correct format.

To change this setting, in Word - On the Tools menu, click Options, and the General tab. Click on the Confirm conversion at Open check box and click OK.

This will force the connection portion of the merge to prompt the user for the file and type of connection. Choose the Excel file and the DDE connection.

It is much eaiser to change the setting than to go through the Word field format process for every field in the merge document.

Beware: updates to Word or Office will return the setting to the default and you will have to set it again. "

Don's suggestion is good, thanks. 

If all the data is formatted in Excel exactly the way you want it in the mail merge then changing to DDE connections is OK. Otherwise you can leave the data transfer method as the default and handle all the formatting in Excel.

Article posted: Wednesday, 02 February 2011

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