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Notary Bulletin

Oaths Vs. Affirmations: Know The Difference

When executing a jurat, some signers’ personal beliefs may cause them to object to swearing an oath of truthfulness to a higher power. In these circumstances, the signer may make an alternative promise called an affirmation instead. An affirmation is a promise to be truthful based on the signer’s personal honor.

Oaths and affirmations have the same legal effect, and either is acceptable when you are performing a jurat. Many Notaries aren’t aware of the option to administer affirmations during a jurat — in a recent Notary Bulletin quiz, more than half of respondents were unable to correctly identify the definition of an affirmation.

Understanding the difference will help you be prepared to administer either during the jurat in order to accommodate the signer’s personal preferences.

When executing a jurat, you may ask if the signer prefers to take an oath or affirmation. If the signer doesn’t know the difference, you may describe it, but let the signer choose which one to take. Just as with an oath, when administering an affirmation have the signer raise his or her right hand or make another appropriate gesture to indicate the gravity of the promise. The signer then speaks the affirmation aloud, promising on his or her personal honor that the contents of the document being notarized are true.

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