How to troubleshoot issues with Word mail merge documents

If you think you are sure that you've entered the merge fields as required, following the instructions in our knowledgebase article on creating mail merge documents and and that you have no merge fields within Word Text boxes and no blank merge fields (see below), we're afraid there's no quick fix to work out what the problem is, as Word does not currently return enough information to allow us to report useful errors back to you via the system other than issues with invalid (but otherwise correct) merge fields.

To identify blank or incomplete merge fields, use Alt+F9 to expand all the merge codes in your Word document. All merge fields should appear as follows, where Field.Name or Field.Name with spaces is the name of the actual merge field from the Advorto system:


{ MERGEFIELD "Field.Name with spaces" \* MERGEFORMAT }  (Word adds the quotes automatically, where a merge field name has spaces in)

{ MERGEFIELD Field.Name } (fields appear like this if the "Preserve formatting during updates" box was unchecked when the merge field was added)

{ MERGEFIELD Field.Name \* FirstCap \* MERGEFORMAT }

The last example above in an example of what you would see for a merge field which is also set to format the text in a certain way (the "Format" option you see below the Field name box when adding a merge field in Word).

If you see anything that looks like the following, delete and re-add the entire merge field again if necessary:

  • { MERGEFIELD  \* MERGEFORMAT } - this is a blank merge field - no actual field name is displayed

In order to find out and fix the issue yourself or advise Advorto Support on exactly where the issue is, so it may be investigated efficiently, please carry out the following steps:

  1. Delete half your document and save it to your PC as a new document

  2. Using a test candidate (we suggest on your Staging system), use the Letter function in the Bulk action menu on the Candidates page to attempt an ad hoc mail merge on the document you saved in step 1.

    N.B. If you do not have access to create letters from ad hoc document uploads, contact your Super User to request that they work with you to test your document. If you are a Super User and don't have access, please contact Advorto Support to request that the ad hoc mail merge functionality is enabled for your security group.

  3. If the document uploaded in step 2 successfully merges:
    You know the issue is only in the half of the document that you deleted

    If the document uploaded in step 2 doesn't work:
    You know that you have an issue in the half of the document that you tried to merge. Repeat step 2 with the half of the document that you deleted to confirm that you don't have multiple issues.

  4. Continue this process, deleting half the remaining document each time and attempting an ad hoc mail merge until you have narrowed down exactly where in the document any issue(s) are occurring.

  5. Once you've found where the issue(s) are, go back to your original document and attempt to rectify the issues by trying any of the following:

If the problem is identified to be a particular merge field:

  • First, just check that the merge field is actually valid and correct and update if not. This may resolve the problem, but we'd advise doing the below steps anyway, just in case.
    N.B. To ensure you enter the correct merge field, view the list of merge fields on the Mail merge page (Bulk action/Candidate timeline > Letter) and select the field you require from the merge field drop down. Make sure you don't copy and paste the leading {! or the final } of the merge field (see guidance on creating mail merge documents)

  • If the merge field does appear to be correct, check that your merge field is not within a Word Text box - Word does not support merging data into fields within Text boxes, so remove the text box and re-add the field outside the text box as required.

  • If your merge field was not in a Word text box, select from the word before the merge field to the word after the merge field in the original Word document and hit the Delete key to delete your selection

  • Re-type the words you deleted (don't copy and paste)

  • Manually re-enter the merge field again in the required place from scratch

    The reason for this is because we are aware that Word appears to occasionally corrupt merge fields, particularly when copying and pasting between documents. Although everything looks fine, simply removing the field entirely and recreating it from scratch usually resolves this problem.

If the problem is identified as being an area of the document, where there are no merge fields:

  • Select from the word before where you have identified the issue occurs to the word after and hit the Delete key to delete your selection

  • Manually re-type the words you deleted again from scratch (don't copy and paste)

    The reason for this is because we are aware that it is possible for some hidden, invisible characters to end up being copied and pasted or accidentally entered into Word, which can prevent Word from doing a mail merge. These may be almost impossible to spot, but the above steps should help you remove this kind of issue.

What if I've done all the above and my merge doc still doesn't work?

By this point you should have managed to reduce your problem document to a single page with no more than a single line of text which you know isn't working.

Please do then log an issue with Advorto Support, attaching your one page/one line document, so we may enjoy working out what the next impossible to spot issue is so we can add that to the list above as well!

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