In vitro transcription assays have been used to study the rate of ribonucleic acid (RNA) synthesis from the Escherichia coli lactose promotor mutant lacL8UV5 contained on a 203-bp (base pair) restriction fragment. The half-life of long (63-base) RNA production from heparin-resistant RNA polymerase-promotor complexes was found to be related to the amount of oligonucleotides released during the initiation process (abortive initiation). Studies indicate that once a ternary complex between the promoter, RNA polymerase, and a newly synthesized RNA seven and nine nucleotides long is formed, abortive initiation is reduced and the rate of synthesis of long RNAs is increased. The promoter for the left inverted repeat of the transposable element Tn5 was also examined. It was observed to have a much slower rate of production of long RNAs, and it released oligonucleotides 4 times as often as the lactose promoter. The correlation between the amount of abortive initiation and the half-time of long RNA production is discussed.