Updated 9-29-21. Your journal entries provide an important record of your notarizations, so it's important to get the details right. But if you make a mistake in your journal, here's what you should know.
While most states either require (like Pennsylvania) or recommend (like Florida) that Notaries keep a journal, none offer specific rules about making corrections to an entry. The NNA’s Hotline counselors frequently receive calls from Notaries who have made all kinds of mistakes, including:
Entering the signer’s wrong address or inappropriate ID information (Texas Notaries are prohibited from recording ID numbers or a signer's biometric information such as a thumbprint).
Entering the wrong document title or omitting it altogether.
Having signers write their signatures in the wrong space.
Failing to obtain the signer’s signature and thumbprint (California requires the signer's thumbprint for the journal entry if the document is a power of attorney, deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust or other document affecting real property).
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
When The Signer Is Still There
Most of the time, you will discover a mistake while you’re completing the journal entry. Say, for example, you wrote the wrong street in the address box. The simplest way to make the correction is as follows (note: for the purpose of describing these tips, we’ll assume you are using the NNA’s Official Journal of Notarial Acts):
Line through the incorrect information.
Write the correct information in the same box, if there is room to write it legibly.
If there is not enough space in the same box, use the box in the line below the entry. There is no rule that says you must only use one line per journal entry.
You also may make a notation about the correction in the “additional information” box.
If you have two or more Notary journal signers and multiple notarizations, it can be easy to get information mixed up between journal entries. For example, you're handling a loan signing for a couple and one partner signs the box for the other’s journal entries and vice versa.
Cross out the signature and have the partners sign the correct signature spaces.
If there isn’t enough room for the signers to sign the correct entries — if, for example, you’re a California Notary and the signers also have placed their thumbprints in the wrong spaces, then correct the other line entries (Name and Address of Signer column, Identification of Signer column, etc.) to make them match.
Note an explanation in each journal entry.
If the resulting corrections will render the entries illegible, then start over and create new entries. It is better to be legible and correct than illegible.
When The Signer Has Left
What happens if you discover a mistake after the signer is long gone? If your state requires you to record the signer’s ID number in the journal, for example, but you forget, you can try to contact the signer to see if they will give you the information, but that may not be possible in many instances. If you are unable to reach the signer to obtain the information, your best course of action is to note the omission and circumstances in the “additional information” box of the journal entry.
Do's And Don’ts
If you rush the process of completing journal entries, you’re more likely to make a mistake. So take your time and make sure to record all the information correctly. It also can help to double-check an entry.
Don’t use correction fluid or tape to cover over a mistake and then write on top of it. The fluid or tape could come off.
If you discover a mistake sometime later, don’t cross out the entire entry and make a new one. Many states have laws that require the entries to be in sequential order, meaning they must be recorded chronologically. The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility recommends entries be made at the time the notarization was performed. If you make a new entry, it is likely to be out of order.
If the notarization is called into question, the fact that your journal entry is out of order could damage your credibility in any legal proceeding.
Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.