Abstract We present a detailed investigation of scattering processes in W 3-string theory. We discover further physical states with continuous momentum, which involve excitations of the ghosts as well as the matter, and use them to gain a better understanding of the interacting theory. The scattering amplitudes display factorisation properties, with states from the different sectors of the theory being exchanged in the various intermediate channels. We find strong evidence for the unitarity of the theory, despite the unusual ghost structure of some of the physical states. Finally, we show that by performing a transformation of the quantum fields that involves mixing the ghost fields with one of the matter fields, the structure of the physical states is dramatically simplified. The new formalism provides a concise framework within which to study the W 3 string.