Transcription is the first step in the expression of genetic information and it is carried out by large macromolecular enzymes called RNA polymerases. Transcription has been studied for many years and with a myriad of experimental techniques, ranging from bulk studies to high-resolution transcript sequencing. In this review, we emphasise the advantages of using single-molecule techniques, particularly optical tweezers, to study transcription dynamics. We give an overview of the latest results in the single-molecule transcription field, focusing on transcription by eukaryotic RNA polymerases. Finally, we evaluate recent quantitative models that describe the biophysics of RNA polymerase translocation and backtracking dynamics.