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Four Answers That Will Help New Notaries Properly Complete Notarial Certificates

Acknowledgment Cert


Notaries who have been on the job for a year or less often encounter confusing scenarios with certificate wording. To help guide you through the process, the Notary Bulletin compiled answers for these commonly asked questions on the NNA Notary Hotline.

If a document doesn’t include notarial certificate wording, can I affix my stamp to the document?

The answer is generally “no.” In most states, if there is no certificate wording included with the document, the signer must tell you what type of notarial act they need. Notaries aren’t allowed to choose a notarial act on a signer’s behalf. If the signer isn’t clear on this, you may describe the different notarial acts — for example, the two most common types of notarial acts are acknowledgments and jurats — and let the signer choose.

If the signer isn’t sure what notarial act is needed, they can contact the agency that issued or is receiving the document or an attorney for instructions. Once you are informed what notarial act is needed, you can attach and complete a loose certificate for the appropriate notarial act.

One exception is the state of Maryland, which does not allow loose certificates. In Maryland, if the document does not contain any acknowledgment or oath wording the Notary may witness the signing of the document in the Notary’s official capacity. This is considered “signature witnessing.” The Maryland Notary must obtain identification, observe the signing of the document; date, sign and stamp/seal the document, note on the document the date the Notary’s commission expires and record the notarization in the Notary’s journal.

May a Notary complete both an acknowledgment and a jurat for the same signer on one document?

Yes. This request would constitute two separate notarial acts for a signer. The Notary may charge for each notarization (acknowledgment and jurat) and would make two separate journal entries.

May I use certificate wording from another state to complete a notarization?

In the vast majority of cases, yes. California is the only exception, where Notaries are required to use specific certificate language prescribed by statute. California Notaries must always use statutory jurat wording, and they must use statutory acknowledgment wording if the document will be filed in California.

Most states have certificate wording in their statutes but permit Notaries to use other wording, as long as it meets the requirements of the state’s other laws. A few states, such as Georgia, don’t have any specific certificate wording in their statutes but offer suggested wording elsewhere, such as in their Notary handbook or on their website, but again permit Notaries to use other wording.

So, as a general rule, you may use an out-of-state certificate, as long as it meets your state’s requirements for that notarial act and doesn’t ask you to do something that’s not authorized in your state (such as asking a California Notary to certify a person’s representative capacity, which is not allowed in California).

Can I correct an error on an acknowledgment or jurat certificate?

It depends on your state’s requirements and when the mistake is discovered. In California and Florida, if you spot an error during the notarization while the signer is present before you, then “yes” — you can line through the mistake, enter the correct information, and initial and date the change. However, if the error is found after the notarization is completed and the signer leaves, the answer is “no” — in that case, a new notarial act would have to be completed.

Some states provide specific instructions or regulations on making corrections in the certificate. Note that in Arizona and Hawaii, if a Notary attaches a loose certificate to correct an error, the law requires the Notary to describe the attached document on the loose certificate. Always be sure to follow your state’s rules regarding certificate corrections.

Helpful Resources For NNA Members

NNA Members can access information on state-specific laws regarding certificate wording online in the NNA’s U.S. Notary Reference Manual or contact our Hotline with any questions regarding unusual notarial certificates.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.


Add your comment


11 Mar 2015

Very simple question: when entering my name and title to a certificate, is it ok to abbreviate my middle name for space purposes. My seal has my first, middle, and last name spelled out, but generally middle initials are used... It's a small detail but I know how things can affect recording. Thank you!

National Notary Association

12 Mar 2015

Hi Joseph. You should enter your name on the certificate the same way as it appears on your Notary commission and seal.

Ashley Davis

08 Jan 2015

If i recieved a document without the notary stamp or seal is this document valid?

National Notary Association

08 Jan 2015

Hello Ashley, Different states have different requirements regarding the use and format of the Notary's official seal. Whether the notarization is valid or not would depend on the laws of the state where the notarization on the document was performed.


27 Aug 2014

I noticed that there is no law primer for new notaries. Yet they need to be extremely aware of the requirements of the State where they have their commission. For example, if they are NSAs in Maryland do they have their Title Insurance License? Do they have the required E & O insurance as required (and not just the amount NNA offers)? Do they have the required CPEs? There are a mess of laws and "Best Practices they need to follow. I've encountered other NPs who believe they can notarized in several States using the same seal. Wrong! The 4th is not completely correct. ISO REQUIRES that a single line be drawn through the incorrect entry and an entry be made as to the reason for the error. Best Practices does not just mean what NNA says they are but also what industry standards require or you can lose certification.

National Notary Association

28 Aug 2014

Hello John, Thanks for your feedback. We saw your comment about ISO standards in our other story too. In case you haven't seen our reply in that thread, please feel free to email us at We're happy to discuss your concerns and would appreciate it if you can include the specific sections you're referring to in your message. Thanks!

26 Aug 2014

Thanks for providing all this valuable information

Kathy Liccardi

25 Aug 2014

I need information on Journaling Please

National Notary Association

26 Aug 2014

Hi, Kathy! You can find some basic information on keeping a journal in our complimentary webinar "How To Complete A Journal" here: Also, here are some Bulletin articles on journals that may be helpful to you: Recommended Notary Practices: Maintaining A Journal Handling Journal Inspection Requests: Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. Have a great day!

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