A common procedure in the solution of a nonclassically damped linear system is to neglect the off-diagonal elements of the associated damping matrix. For a large-scale system, substantial reduction in computational effort is achieved by this method of decoupling the system. Clearly, the decoupling approximation is valid only if modal coupling can somehow be neglected. The purpose of this paper is to study the characteristics of modal coupling, which is amenable to a complex representation. An analytical formulation that facilitates the evaluation of modal coupling is developed. Contrary to widely accepted beliefs, it is shown that neither frequency separation of the natural modes nor strong diagonal dominance of the modal damping matrix would be sufficient to suppress the sometimes significant effect of modal coupling.