I'm having a hard time to tell the nuanced difference between sample and example. Most reputable dictionaries tend suggest it's something like this:
- Example: something you make up or cite from real life to illustrate or prove a point, argument, word usage, etc.
- Sample: a small part of a larger whole, used to give a taste or an idea of what that larger whole could be like.
This differencebetween article contains a beautiful breakdown that affirms the difference I'm suspecting.
Therefore, to illustrate how to write an essay, I figure you'd use an "example essay", for example.
There are, however, a few issues with this. First, many dictionaries and thesauri also sloppily lump sample and example as "synonyms".
Second, some presumably authoritative sources, such as Cambridge IELTS Academic, use sample where I think example is more suitable. If we're talking about an essay meant to show how learners or would-be exam takers how to write one, there are two scenarios: one, the essay was entirely fabricated by the book's author, in which case it should be an example essay; two, the essay was pulled from an essay repository (a larger whole), in which case it should be a sample essay.
For a concrete example (sample?), take this "sample text" on transition signals. I could not verify whether this "sample" was an excerpt (from a larger, complete source), in which case it's wholly appropriately a "sample", or it was entirely made up by the author for illustrative purposes, in which case it's better called an "example".
So what is the real difference, if there's any at all, between example and sample?