Using precise excision as a model system, we have quantified the effect of direct repeats, inverted repeats and the size of the spacer between the repeats in the process of deletion formation in Bacillus subtilis. Both in the presence and absence of inverted repeats, the frequency of precise excision was strongly dependent on the direct repeat length. By increasing the direct repeat length from 9 bp to 18 and 27 bp, the precise excision frequency was raised by 3 and 4 orders of magnitude, respectively. In addition, irrespective of the direct repeat length, the presence of flanking inverted repeats enhanced the excision frequency by 3 orders of magnitude. Varying the inverted repeat length and the spacer size over a wide range did not significantly affect the excision frequencies. These results fit well into a model for deletion formation by slipped mispairing during replication of single-stranded plasmid DNA.