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This question seems to be tricky even for native speakers. I have done a quick search on Google and gotten mixed results. However, the best result I have gotten so far is from iTalki.com:

They are pretty much synonyms. I see that m-w.com lists each as a synonym for the other.

TO ME, "excerpt" SUGGESTS a long passage that is intended to be read, possibly for enjoyment, as a coherent whole. An example would be an entire book chapter--for example, a whole chapter of a new book published in a magazine.

TO ME, an "extract" is usually shorter than an "excerpt" but longer than a "quotation."

The sense I am interested in is when used to deal with text whether it is a book, essay, transcript, poem etc.

Some criteria you could think about giving the best answer is:

  • Length (which one is longer in general)

  • Collocations (I really want to know if there is, and hopefully get some examples)

  • Register (academic, governmental, legal, entertainment and spoken English)

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As nouns, excerpt and extract are synonymous, i.e. a small piece of a longer text.

In respect to texts, I suspect excerpt would be the more common of the two, mainly because the verb to extract has a much wider range of meanings. One can extract ore, or extract the truth, or extract a tooth; but text is the only thing one can excerpt.

  • Actually, extract is fairly common in ELL books. However, I will cite from an ELT website instead. "Want to hear more about Pan Macmillan business books? Sign up for great extra content and free extracts from books by leading business minds.". And, "Drawing on Eastern and Western philosophy, and colourful characters from Picasso and Socrates to Warren Beatty, this book represents a lifetime of wisdom learned at the creative cutting edge. Click here for a short extract" – learner Nov 8 '14 at 11:18
  • The quotes above were taken from Macmillan's website – learner Nov 8 '14 at 11:19
  • Did I say extract was uncommon? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 8 '14 at 11:27
  • No you didn't, but I felt it wouldn't be common when I read your answer. When I study the reading sections in ELL books I have used I usually come across the word "extract" being used, that is if not always. – learner Nov 8 '14 at 11:34
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    You cannot judge word frequency by one book. In any case, you can use them interchangeably. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 8 '14 at 12:06

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