You've already had quite a bit of practice with reducing fractions that have only integers- you can reduce the numbers by dividing by a common factor on top and bottom (like, when 2/8 = 1/4, you are dividing the top and bottom both by the common factor 2.) The same idea is true with rational expressions that involve x- you can cross out common factors in top and bottom, but only after you've factored. Terms attached to a + or - sign are not "eligible" for being crossed out unless you're crossing out an entire binomial term.
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