How many times have you sent an email and received no response or an incomplete response? Many of us run in circles sending emails back and forth in an effort to communicate completely. A reply may contain an answer to only one of the questions asked or misinterpret the original message entirely.

One way for an organization or working group to communicate more efficiently is to define a set of keywords to be used in email subject lines. For example, when does ‘urgent’ truly mean urgent? One of the teams I work with defined ‘urgent’ as the sender is not able to act without input from the receiver within 20 minutes. The team ultimately agreed that email is NOT the best way to express an urgent need and in such cases, senders will pick up the phone or send an instant message instead. They decided to use the word ‘important’ when a reply was needed within 24 hours. Everyone is now on the same page, speaking the same language, and this small change has made a huge difference in the team’s productivity.

Another way to streamline communications is to keep emails short and simple. Don’t ask too much in one email and use bullet points to highlight questions that require a reply. Add a deadline or request date, for example, “please reply by date.” Or use “reply requested” in the subject line. The key is to define email guidelines as a group.

In this article for Thrive Global, Gustavo Razzetti sums it up nicely –It’s all about clarity”. Gustavo recommends using messaging apps instead of email. However, if your organization uses email, he provides examples of additional one-word categories that may help senders and readers organize the importance and significance of email communications.

Is your team on the same page?