McQuary Limit

What Does McQuary Limit Mean?

The McQuary limit (sometimes spelled “McQuarry limit”) is a term related to an obsolete practice called “warlording.” This was done on the USENET newsgroups of the 1980s and 1990s. The McQuary limit is a limit to the size of a signature block, a digital block of text and characters attached to a USENET post.


In the age of USENET, the McQuary limit was a kind of rule intended to enforce limitations on signature blocks, which was often cited in warlording. According to the McQuary limit, the acceptable limit for a signature block was four lines of 80 characters or less, each.

Techopedia Explains McQuary Limit

Users who were in love with bulky and elaborate signature blocks might exceed the McQuary limit by quite a large margin. Some of these blocks included ASCII art, where individual text letters and characters were used to draw large, cartoonish pictures in the signature block. One example was the use of ASCII art to create an image of the sword of Conan the Barbarian. The practice of warlording, which utilized the McQuary limit as a kind of understood network etiquette, would use sarcasm or other means to criticize these oversized signature blocks. Another faux pas in USENET was including the signature block more than once in a post.

In some ways, the earlier bulletin boards predating the internet had a lot of user etiquette attached to them, more than most common user interactions on the internet today. One reason is because of the relative freedom of the technology form – for example, today’s forums and comment boards do not often accommodate large signature blocks. The McQuary limit rule is a good example of how a user community sets its own standards and enforces them without centralized control.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.