Some people think that if they just make good use of the CAP LOCKS key or throw in a bunch of exclamation points, the reader will understand the importance of an email. Not so. The only thing that sort of messy, in-your-face approach does is complicate the message.

So, how should you express urgency in emails? Follow a few basic guidelines.

First, spend a few minutes putting your thoughts in order to avoid sending a rambling, go-around-the-corner-too-many-times blob of text. You may want to craft an email meant only for you so you can get all your thoughts out at once with the intent of organizing them later.

When you’re ready with an edited version, make good use of white space, paragraph breaks and bullet points.

Begin with a brief statement specific to the urgency such as “This email requires a response by Wednesday” or, “Please read and respond about the budget allowance by close of business Tuesday.”

Spell out the reason for the urgency in one sentence. Say something like, “I need to respond to Joe by 5pm on Friday so he can place the order to ensure delivery by our deadline.”

Create sequential bullet points so it’s easier for the reader to follow. Start at the beginning and make your way through whatever process lead you to today so they understand your thought process.

Be specific about the answers you need and those you’ve already decided.

Provide a few possible solutions. This allows the reader to give you a quicker yes or no and presents you as a problem solver. Briefly state the pros and cons of each of your proposed solutions; then state which one you prefer and why. This approach can also turn a bigger discussion into a simple yes or no request.

Offer to make the decision if the recipient is too busy.

Follow up with a brief phone message or stop by his office to let him know you sent him an email that requires a response. Don’t go into the details, just let him know he can look for it when he’s ready.

And, finally, don’t cry wolf. Everything can’t be an emergency so save urgency for issues that deserve it.