When I write something that an object, like a clock, says should it be as though I was referring to a character talking (e.g. The clock read "1:13") or without the quotation marks? Thank you!

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    I would skip the quotes. You are really describing the current state of the clock. The idea that the clock is talking is poetic but poets serve metre not grammar, so the rules are different for them. – Henry Taylor May 5 at 18:40
  • However, adding to the previous comment, if you're discussing the actual (literal) writing on a sign, for instance, you could skip the quotation marks, but use italics—if it would otherwise be unclear. – Jason Bassford May 5 at 19:40
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    On the other hand, if the clock actually issues a sound, vocalizing the time, then it would be appropriate to anthropomorphize it and use speech tags with a comma and quotation marks. (Also, it would say, "1:13," not read it.) – Jason Bassford May 5 at 19:43
  • @HenryTaylor "Poets serve metre not grammar": I've never heard it put better. – JohnnyApplesauce May 10 at 20:26

It depends on message from the object. If, like a clock, it is simply showing some information, then quotes don't fit the need. To use your clock example,

The blinding red digits on the alarm clock said it was 4:13 AM. Time to catch a quick nap before the daylight, and the next attack.

If the clock were more of an anthropomorphic character:

The blinding red digits burned forth from my aging alarm clock. The dial showed 4:13 AM, but the clock shouted to me, "Again, you have no time to sleep! Again! When will this change?"

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