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When you are talking about the word itself, not using it for what it represents

When you’re discussing a word itself, rather than what it stands for, you use italics. Have a look at this sentence:

My favourite word is the word epiphany.

Here we’re talking about the word ‘epiphany’ itself and how it’s my favourite word. We’re not using the word’s meaning, we’re just talking about the word itself. This is different to how it’s used in this sentence:

In Reign of Fire, Van Zan had an epiphany regarding the dragons.

Because the meaning represented by the word ‘epiphany’ is being used in this sentence, we don’t italicise it.

Some people prefer to use single quotation marks instead of italics in a case like this:

My favourite word is the word ‘epiphany’.