The regulated transcription of genes determines cell identity and function. Recent structural studies have elucidated mechanisms that govern the regulation of transcription by RNA polymerases during the initiation and elongation phases. Microscopy studies have revealed that transcription involves the condensation of factors in the cell nucleus. A model is emerging for the transcription of protein-coding genes in which distinct transient condensates form at gene promoters and in gene bodies to concentrate the factors required for transcription initiation and elongation, respectively. The transcribing enzyme RNA polymerase II may shuttle between these condensates in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. Molecular principles are being defined that rationalize transcriptional organization and regulation, and that will guide future investigations.