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Notary Bulletin

A Notary's Guide To Oaths And Affirmations

witness.jpgUpdated 6-17-21. An oath or affirmation is a solemn declaration with legal consequences that can be made before a Notary. If one of your customers wishes to take an oath or affirmation, here is what you need to know.

Difference Between An Oath And An Affirmation

While both oaths and affirmations are notarial acts that compel a person to tell the truth, an oath is a solemn, spoken pledge to God or a Supreme Being, while an affirmation is a spoken pledge made on the signer’s personal honor with no reference to a higher power. Either is considered acceptable, and the choice is left to the signer.

Steps To Administer An Oath Or Affirmation

When administering an oath or affirmation, follow these steps:

1. Require the person taking the oath or affirmation to physically appear before you. Unless expressly authorized by law, oaths and affirmations may not be administered remotely.

2. Ask the person for acceptable proof of identification as prescribed by state law. An oath or affirmation may be part of the notarial act of a verification on oath or affirmation or jurat requiring the individual to sign the document containing the sworn statement. Proving identity is a requirement for these notarial acts.

3. Ask the person to raise their right hand or make another ceremonial gesture before responding, to emphasize the seriousness of the process. While these ceremonial formalities are seldom required by law, they have value in impressing upon your signer the significance of their actions. Some signers — and even some Notaries — make light of the situation, but it’s clearly not the best time to crack jokes. Be professional and a role model in administering oaths and affirmations at all times and your customer will respond in kind.

4. Administer the oath or affirmation by asking if the person swears or affirms the truthfulness of their statement. The wording may be formulated as a question or a statement depending on your state.

California provides the following wording for an oath or affirmation in the form of questions: 

For an oath: "Do you solemnly state that the evidence you shall give in this issue (or matter) shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

For an affirmation: "Do you solemnly state, under penalty of perjury, that the evidence that you shall give in this issue (or matter) shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" (Code of Civil Procedure 2094[a]).

Texas provides the following oath or affirmation wording for a person taking public office in the form of a statement: "I _________ (affiant), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of ____________, of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State (so help me God)." 

Florida does not prescribe the form of the oath or affirmation, so you may pose the oath or affirmation as a question or a statement. If posed as a question, the appropriate wording for an oath for a jurat, verification or affidavit may be something like this: "Do you solemnly swear that the statements in this document are true to the best of your knowledge and belief, so help you God?"

5. Require the person taking the oath or affirmation to answers "Yes" or "I do" if the oath or affirmation is a question, or have the person repeat the oath or affirmation after you, if the form is a statement. Because the signer's answer puts them under penalty of perjury, it's important that the signer's response be clearly understood by the Notary. Nodding, saying "uh-huh" or other ambiguous responses are not appropriate.

Tips For Taking Oaths And Affirmations

  • Never Take Shortcuts: If the document being notarized requires an oath or affirmation, you must verbally administer it — even if the signer attempts to rush you or avoid it entirely. 
  • Ask, Don’t Advise: If a signer is unclear about the difference between an oath and affirmation, you may provide the form for each, but you cannot legally advise the signer which one to make; it’s their choice.  
  • Honor Your Signers Choice: Since oaths and affirmations are equally legal and acceptable, the Notary should honor the signer’s choice and use the appropriate wording and gestures. 
  • Record It In Your Journal: Note every oath and affirmation you administer carefully in your journal. Once you recognize the basics and have several oaths and affirmations under your belt, administering them will be a cinch.   

You can learn more from your state's Notary regulating agency website or your state's Notary handbook. Or check out the NNA's Notary Primers or U.S. Notary Reference Manual Online, which is a NNA member benefit. The NNA's Notary Essentials eLearning course guides you through all your state's requirements.

Kelle Clarke is a regular contributor to the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

NNA Hotline




Add your comment

Calvin C Wilson

01 Jun 2015

thank you very good


01 Jun 2015

top of screen is blank. have no idea what this is

Gary Halvorsen

01 Jun 2015

When notarizing a 4 page document (for example), is it legal to also put your stamp on the back side of all 4 pages (spaced out a little so the stamp is shown a little bit on each page). This then helps to ensure no additional pages have been added, or a page has been removed. When I was st sea I did this to cargo manifests and documents.

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2015

Hello. To help ensure we provide you with the correct information for your state, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Doylene Plank

01 Jun 2015

This is great information. I am keeping in my file for future reference.

Regina Stevenson

01 Jun 2015

Can I return this course for a refund

National Notary Association

02 Jun 2015

Hi Regina. If you have questions regarding a refund for an NNA course or product, please contact our Customer Care team at 1-800-876-6827 or and they can help you.


02 Jun 2015

Very good information, and very timely. There is a civil litigation case currently ongoing in Seminole County, Florida in which the court declined to rule on judgment due to the fact that the plaintiff did not take, and the notary did not administer, an oath while executing an affidavit central to the case. A very real consequence of not having the oath/affirmation properly administered.

Memo Reyes

02 Jun 2015

So when you're doing a Jurat, do you have ask the client if they want to take an Oaths or an Affirmations?

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2015

Hello Memo. Yes, you should ask the signer if they have a preference between an oath or affirmation and let the signer choose which they prefer.

05 Jun 2015

I just became a Notary in the state of Maryland. Are affirmations and/or oaths only required for Affidavit's?

National Notary Association

09 Jun 2015

Hello. No, Notaries in Maryland are also authorized to administer oaths and affirmations for other situations that require a person to make a promise to tell the truth, such as a person giving oral testimony for a deposition.


15 Apr 2016

California- I've been asked to perform an oath on paperwork on a divorce decree from another country. I don't think I can perform Oaths on alternate paperwork. Do I attach a jurat?

National Notary Association

15 Apr 2016

Hello Rebecca. This article has some information that may be helpful to you: The signer must tell you what type of notarization they want-if unsure, the signer may need to contact the document's issuing agency for instructions.

John Axt

23 May 2016

It may be simpler to look at this in religious terms. If a person does not believe in god they can use an affirmation instead of swearing to a god they don't believe in. In the practical world that notaries live in, you don't ask if they want an oath or affirmation. If a person objects to swearing an oath administer an affirmation. Just that simple.


23 May 2016

Luckily, here in NJ, there is a law that specifically states that the "oath ceremony" that is, the uplifting of the hand and asking the signer to confirm "yes" or "no" isn't necessary to the validity of an oath or affirmation. However, I always like to ask because it gives them a sense of, "This is a serious thing. I should tell the truth here."


23 May 2016

Can anyone suggest language for dealing with the "mhmm" response? Do you advise before hand that now you will now administer the oath/affirmation and need a clear verbal answer in response?

Bernie Swanson

24 May 2016

I would include the words "Please respond with a verbal yes or no" after asking do you swear or affirm.....

Anna Marie Mastrangelo

23 Aug 2016

I am a NSA, most of my notorrial acts are with in the context of a loan closing. There are up to 20 different documents within the packet that need to be notarized. When entering the info into my journal is it necessary to note each and every document or is one entry enough for the closing?

National Notary Association

23 Aug 2016

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Glenda Rooney

29 Mar 2017

I love this information from NNA 😎


15 May 2017

As usual, this information is very helpful - thank you!

Jerry Lucas

16 Apr 2018

I wrote a blog article on the History of the Oath. The affirmation was created to accommodate Quakers, Mennonites and Moravians, who were religious, but believed that passages in the Bible prohibited taking an oath. In the past, oaths were also taken on sacred objects including stones, weapons, and even bear heads by Siberian hunters. Ancient oaths sometimes included a curse as a penalty for making false statements. See


16 Apr 2018

I'm a little confused in the course it says you can not notarize any kind of marriage certificate but doesn't say about an application for a marriage licence


30 Apr 2018

When is an oath or affirmation necessary? Will he paper I'm notarizing say if we need to perform this? Is it only to be done when requested by a customer? I am a notary in Greene County, Missouri. Thank you!

National Notary Association

30 Apr 2018

Hello. The Notary cannot choose what kind of notarization is needed-if the signer wishes to take an oath or affirmation, the signer must tell you that is the type of notarization they want. If the signer is unsure, the signer may need to contact the agency that issued the document to ask if an oath or affirmation is required. Please see this article for more information:

Cheryl Cook

07 May 2018

When completing a Jurat and Oath or Affirmation, do I need two separate journal entries or can I just include everything on the one Journal entry?

National Notary Association

07 May 2018

Hello. If you are administering the oath or affirmation as part of a jurat notarization, you only need one journal entry.


08 May 2018

Here in NJ, the law states that the uplifting of the hand is not required when administering the oath as part of a jurat. The only requirement is that the person who is under oath, knows they are under oath, and that they consent to it (if not in open court) and that they understand that lying while under oath is perjury.

Jaqueline M Perkins

30 Oct 2018

I need a notary at 1pm tomorrow to swear me in over the phone over a contempt of court and modification of alimony. All I need is 40 second s to a minute of your time. Please help me!!!

Krisie Stocker

03 Jun 2019

When recording a Jurat and oath or affirmation in our journal, does the oath or affirmation require its own line entry?

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2019

Hello. If the oath or affirmation was administered as part of the jurat process, then no. However, if the oath or affirmation was administered verbally as a separate notarization apart from the jurat, then it would require its own journal entry.

Sherry Hendershot

21 Aug 2019

My boyfriend has to participate in a phone hearing out of state and needs a notary to administer an oath. I am a notary, can I administer the oath as his girlfriend?

National Notary Association

22 Aug 2019

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

rosalie carrillo

14 Oct 2019

Just became a Notary in California... How much is the usual fee if any to administer and Oath or Affirmation?

National Notary Association

14 Oct 2019

Hello. The maximum fee you may charge for a jurat, or for administering an oath or affirmation apart from a jurat is $15 per person (GC 8211 [a] and [b]).


14 Apr 2020

Rule No. 1 flew right out the window with the national acceptance of Remote Notarizarions. What that tells me is that if you let that rule dissolve, why even worry about the rest of it.

Elena Carlugea

21 Aug 2020

1. The person taking the oath or affirmation must be physically present before you. Oaths and affirmations may not be administered remotely by phone or email. To answer everyone that wants to be sworn over the phone = CANT swore over the phone , has to be in person .


07 Apr 2021

Where can I go and take the oath in Texas for Notary?

National Notary Association

09 Apr 2021

Hello. Upon receipt of their commission from the Secretary of State and before performing any notarial acts, applicants must take the required oath of office before an officer authorized to administer oaths. This may be another Notary, but applicants may not administer their own oaths (GC 406.010[c], [d] and [e]; EI). If you wish another Notary to administer your oath of office, you may wish to contact them in advance to confirm they are performing in-person services during COVID-19 and to ask if they require signers to use PPE such as face masks during the notarization.

27 Jul 2021

This article makes it seem that California must use the questions provided which is a misrepresentation. Quoting from the Secretary of State approved WORKbook, "Although there is no prescribed wording for the oath or affirmation to be administered by a notary public OUTSIDE OF A CIVIL OR CRIMINAL PROCEEDING, an acceptable oath or affirmation would be: [the two questions in the article]" (emphasis added). To quote from the Secretary of State approved HANDbook, "There is no prescribed wording for the oath, but an acceptable oath would be “Do you swear or affrm that the statements in this document are true?” When administering the oath, the signer and notary public traditionally each raise their right hand but this is not a legal requirement."

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