Once you begin the body of the vita--after the name and addresses, you will have a number of categories or headings to choose from.  These would normally include, generally: Education, Teaching Experience, Publications, Service, Awards, and References.  Many other subcategories can be appropriate if they serve you, but they generally fall under these headings, or go toward the end of the vita.

All these category headings should be bolded, and normally aligned along the left margin.  They should be capitalized or in small capitals.

  • ADVICE. The reason for keeping these category headings along the left margin is to echo a business letter, suggesting you mean business.  Centering these headings is not a crime, but it suggests an element of preciousness, and also can be distracting to the eye.  We have all seen the kind of presentation that begins, always centered, "My Poem," followed by, "by," followed by "Me McMe," everything centered.  It's this naïveté you are trying to avoid in a professional presentation.

"No wonder poets sometimes have to
So much more business-like than business men.
Their wares are so much harder to get rid of."
--Robert Frost

  • A résumé invites this centering, given that it is normally one page and attempting something of a visual impact, but a vita has got a more detailed business to conduct, and follows the lead of an outline.  Imagine an outline in which the major or first letters or numerals are centered, and the subnumerals are ordered along the left margin.  It would be confusing, page after page.

Some information is no longer appropriate, even though historically people may have supplied it.  Do not include the following, for example:

a. Date of birth.
b. Marital status.
c. Number of children, their names, their occupations, or anything else about them.
d. Social Security number.

The reasons for not including this information are probably self-evident.  Also, do not include any kind of photograph of yourself.

The following are all suggestions for information you do need to have on your vita.  You will need to include all the major categories:
Education, Publications, Teaching, Service, Awards, and References.  This assumes, of course, that you have such things as publications.  If you don't, do not panic.  What I am saying here, however, is that these are the categories search committees will indeed pay some attention to.  The subcategories, however, are only suggestions, to which you may even want to add some others, and are useful as long as you place them appropriately and as long as they contain distinct information.  In place of the subcategories, you may instead add a "Related Experience" entry, into which you place idiosyncratic information.  Always end, however, with "References."  And "References" should be a separate page at the end.

From the following list, leave out what doesn't apply to you, as long as it's not a major category.  If you don't have an agent, for example, or are not a member of any professional organizations, don't make any notation at all.  The subcategories are not required, and in fact should only be used if they help to clarify your vita.

a. Education.  This is generally the first entry on most vitas.  You may include here any educational institutions or experiences for which you received some sort of recognized credit.  The key will be to remember that someone checking on this information should be able to find it. Make sure to include the degree you received, the name of the institution, where it is, and when.  If you received a "high pass" on your examinations, you may appropriately include a short phrase to this effect as well, a phrase like "High pass on comprehensive examination."  The entry would read like this: Master of Fine Arts, Creative Writing, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.  Emphasis in poetry.  2001.  High pass on comprehensive examination.  Thesis: "Rhymes Are Us."  Committee Chair: Emily Dickinson.  You may modify the order and punctuation of this information, but be consistent with all your degrees.  If you received no degree, you need not say anything except the dates, in years, that you attended.  For your highest degree, you may include your thesis or dissertation title, a very short explanatory phrase describing it--such as, "a collection of prose poems"--and your committee chair.  You may wish to include your whole committee, but this is not necessary.

"In relation to a writer, most readers believe in the Double Standard: they may be unfaithful to him as often as they like, but he must never, never be unfaithful to them."--W.H. Auden

b. Publications.  You may include here any work of yours that has been published or which has been accepted for publication.  Remember to list your most current publications first.  You should alphabetize them within a given year.  You can use standard MLA or Chicago Manual of Style bibliographic citations: Title of your work, Journal, Issue, page numbers.  However, a writer's vita may require some modifications.

  • ADVICE. Writers often have multiple publications in a single journal.  Rather than listing them all separately, group them, and give the journal information only once.  Of course, publishing in a different issue of the same journal would constitute a separate, complete entry.
  • As the bibliographic part of your vita gets longer, you may want to consider putting the journal title first, followed by issue information, the title or titles of your work, and page numbers.  For pragmatic reasons on a writer's vita, this may be the most helpful format, even if it is counter to the style sheet rules.  The issue is simple: the best conveyance of the most meaningful information.  For a writer, a prospective employer, or search committee, is going to find the journal names more immediately interesting than your titles, no matter how wonderful they are.  Until you get some publications is more visible journals, however, the regular practice of starting with titles will probably serve you better.
  • As your vita gets longer, you will want to distinguish different kinds of publications from each other.  For example, you may have separate headings for books, anthologies, and journals.  Further down the road, if you write in various genres, you may also want to separate fiction from poetry from non-fiction, and so on.  There is no hard and fast rule about this, but remember that someone who probably knows the field is looking at this, and padding is the worst crime.  Don't begin separating things out too early.  A book is worthy of a separate category.  One or two anthologies--unless they are professionally big deals--are not enough.  Three--three is a good beginning for a separate category. 
  • Do not include here projects you are working on, or things you think might get published, or any other kind of supposition.  Stick to the done deal.  Someone's interest in your work is nice, but does not constitute a vita entry.

"You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do."--Henry Ford

"Well done is better than well said."
--Benjamin Franklin

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