The vast majority of organisms possess transcription elongation factors, the functionally similar bacterial Gre and eukaryotic/archaeal TFIIS/TFS. Their main cellular functions are to proofread errors of transcription and to restart elongation via stimulation of RNA hydrolysis by the active centre of RNA polymerase (RNAP). However, a number of taxons lack these factors, including one of the largest and most ubiquitous groups of bacteria, cyanobacteria. Using cyanobacterial RNAP as a model, we investigated alternative mechanisms for maintaining a high fidelity of transcription and for RNAP arrest prevention. We found that this RNAP has very high intrinsic proofreading activity, resulting in nearly as low a level of in vivo mistakes in RNA as Escherichia coli. Features of the cyanobacterial RNAP hydrolysis are reminiscent of the Gre-assisted reaction—the energetic barrier is similarly low, and the reaction involves water activation by a general base. This RNAP is resistant to ubiquitous and most regulatory pausing signals, decreasing the probability to go off-pathway and thus fall into arrest. We suggest that cyanobacterial RNAP has a specific Trigger Loop domain conformation, and isomerises easier into a hydrolytically proficient state, possibly aided by the RNA 3′-end. Cyanobacteria likely passed these features of transcription to their evolutionary descendants, chloroplasts.