External dampers have been utilized in a number of cable-stayed bridges to suppress transverse cable vibrations. However, simple and accurate damper design recommendations that concurrently consider all important cable parameters are lacking. Previous efforts have been based on the idealization of cables as taut strings. In this paper, the governing differential equation for vibration of cables containing a viscous damper was first converted to a complex eigenvalue problem containing nondimensional cable parameters. Then, a parametric study was conducted involving repeated solutions of the eigenvalue problem for a wide range of nondimensional parameters. Based on the results of the parametric study, the effects of dampers on first mode vibration frequencies and first mode cable damping ratios were presented in nondimensional format. It is shown that for the range of parameters involved in most stay cables, the influence of cable sag is insignificant, whereas the cable bending stiffness can have a significant influence on the resulting cable damping ratios. Simplified nondimensional relationships are proposed for calculating damper-induced changes in the first mode cable damping ratios. Results of laboratory tests on a scaled model cable are compared with the estimated values using the formulation presented. Finally, example problems are presented for comparison with other relationships, and for the design of mechanical viscous dampers for suppression of cable vibrations including rain-wind induced vibrations.