This is often the biggest question we get from new notaries. The answer can be found in the notarial wording (aka, the notary’s instructions). In a JURAT, the verbiage will say something like SUBSCRIBED to and SWORN to BEFORE ME. What does this mean? Subscribed means signed. Sworn means an oral oath was given. Me is the notary. So, if you see this verbiage, make sure the person signs the document in your presence, give them an oath, swearing that the contents of the document are true. Then you can sign and seal the document.
Acknowledgment, simply means the signer acknowledged that he/she signed the document and that they understand what they are signing. Yes, can sometimes take a paragraph to explain that in legal terms. No oath is given and technically, the document does not have to be signed in the notary’s presence.